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Diner en Blanc Baltimore, We Got In!!!

If you thought you heard a high-pitched squeal anywhere in downtown DC, a little after Noon today, that would be me.

Me and one of my dear friends will be going to Diner en Blanc in Baltimore in just a few short weeks. (Check out the Forbes article that breaks it all down.)

I’m thrilled, I’m amped and I’m excited. I’ve heard about Diner en Blanc which started more than 20 years ago by a Frenchman who basically invited a select group of friends to dress elegantly in all white and set up a picnic in a beautiful public space and enjoy each other’s company. Truth be told, I’ve been starved for an event that requires people to put in some thought and effort. I’ve lamented in this blog how our casual attitude towards our lives, our meals, our going out and our interactions have really just made us a blah society. I can rock with some of the formality and style of the French and Italian and folks in other countries. Joie de vivre. Enjoy life. Enjoy each bite of food and swallow of drink and wear nice clothes and engage and enjoy your company. Put care into the smaller details. Yup, sign me up, if only for one night.

Each year, invitees from the previous year invited other friends, and it grew. It grew so much that the event has been taking place in major cities all over the world. At this point, thousands of people show up to appointed places at appointed times and then are sent by foot, public transportation or chartered buses to the selected spot. The spots have ranged from the Louvre in Paris, to the Usain Bolt Track in Jamaica. DC revelers have even partied at the foot of the Lincoln Monument. The photos are a true sight to behold.

So, when it comes to the inaugural soiree in the Charm City, one naturally assumes, we’ll wind up in the Inner Harbor. But, that may seem like the super obvious choice. So, my guess would have to include outdoor spaces that would make for great photos near iconic buildings or with potential views of the harbor.

If we don’t end up directly in the harbor, my top guesses are City Hall and Orioles Park or any area where ArtScape or the Baltimore Book Festival have taken place where large groups of people are able to gather and streets can be shut down. The Maryland Zoo and Pimlico Race Track are my wild card choices. They aren’t immediately downtown, but there will be enough spaces for buses to load and unload a bunch of folks.

My guesses include:
1. The Maryland Zoo
2. Right in front of City Hall
3. Fells Point
4. American Visionary Art Museum
5. Walter’s Art Museum
6. Oriole’s Park/ M&T Bank Stadium
7. Pimlico Race Track

There’s a lot to do. I’m using all of my strength to avoid purchasing a new outfit and try to find a lovely white number inside of my closet. I’m already against it because I feel it’s more for a power meeting at work. My go-to site is ASOS (every ASOS dress I’ve worn, the compliments pour in) and NY and Company is having a great sale. Those dresses always tend to fit me well and are made of comfy fabrics and are insanely easy to dress up with accessories due to their simplicity and versatility.

As for the shoes, I personally hate white shoes. They make everyone’s feet look like Fred Flintstone. Totally unflattering. White shoes no matter the style, make me think of the usher board and their sensible nursing shoes walking up and down the aisles at church. I do plan to follow the rules. I think gold and silver shoes are allowed, but either way, I’ll figure this out. Moving on.

I was determined about getting to my computer on time to get into the registration period for new folks, better known as Phase 3. Phase one folks are people who have attended previous events and get automatic invites to the next. From what I understand, Phase 2 folks are guests of phase one people who have attended before and Phase 3 are the newbies like me, who have never gone and managed to sign up for the wait list.

I was really excited today about being able to get in, I haven’t been this crazy about logging on exactly at 12 noon since getting tickets to see Prince. I willed Ticketmaster into submission and even went solo to increase my chances. Seeing Prince was a serious thing for me and I’m so thankful I did that. The following year, he passed away. See, good choices?

But anyway, I was amped. When I asked my boyfriend if he’d be interested if I managed to get registered, he politely declined. I let it be. He probably would have been miserable and probably the thought of him pulling together an acceptable head-to-toe white outfit in two weeks was probably the last thing he wanted to do.

My boyfriend was not about us lugging a table, chairs and our own food to a secret location dressed in all white, so this was a mission for one of the local homies who is always down for an adventure. I was able to quickly rebound from his rejection.

This homegirl is the type of homegirl who makes everything fun. Like gut, busting, silly, loud-singing, fun. I could have a bowl of cereal with her, or get lost in some random city with this chick, and shenanigans will ensue. We ALWAYS have a great time whether we are sitting around the house making mini pizzas, watching the Muppets and putting on clay face masks, or checking out an art exhibit. Yup, as soon as I sent the text, “We’re In!!” we’ve been texting and thinking of ideas on how to decorate our table… yes, that’s a thing and there’s even a prize for the best decorated tables.

According to Pinterest, folks go all out. Yes, I’ve stalked Pinterest and read every article. This is probably why my boyfriend wisely passed on attending this with me. While I’ve seen some elaborate setups, we plan to keep it simple, if for no other reason than not wanting to lug around a lot of stuff.

Diner en Blanc vets recommend having a hand truck to lug your goods. I will be investing in that.

So, yes, my boyfriend’s observation is right. He’s the more sensible one of our pair. This is a lot of work. But I’m actually very excited to pull this together and so is my home girl.

Yes, there are articles that poke fun at how much people end up spending to have a picnic in a public park, and even people calling it elitist and super snobbish because of the air of secrecy and the element of exclusivity due to the original invite only premise. There was another honest article from Washington City Paper about how much it really costs to attend one of these things, from buying or renting tables and chairs and linens, buying your own food vs. buying directly from Diner en Blanc to ordering your wine or champagne, because you can’t bring your own. Sniff, sniff. The costs do add up. I did go ahead and buy one bottle of wine through the website after registering, because dang, after all of that, it’s not about to be dry. We will need to toast. That is non-negotiable.

Is it bourgeois? Most certainly. I don’t care. We live in perilous times. I’m desperately seeking Trump-free, non-partisan, fuck-my-student-loan, joy.

It’s a moment to share with thousands of people, on a hopefully lovely night weather wise. Sure, people will be doing it for the ‘gram hard core, it’s a social media wet dream. Serious, google the pics. But, I really am interested in doing something unique this summer and just having a really great time, even if there is a bit of effort that goes into all of this. I’ve been looking for moments to engage in joyful things, and looking at pics from all over the world, I know that this is it.

I want to see other people’s creativity with their tables, what they decided to bring to eat, and then enjoy the entertainment and dance the night away with a breathtaking Baltimore backdrop.

So let’s get it.

Bad-Ass Scardy Cat

I keep telling yall. 2016 will be the year of the unexpected. I mentioned in a previous blog, in 2015, I was concentrating on balance. And it served me well. Focusing on balance brought me to a good place and I think prepared me for the coming year.

I’m getting that much closer to finishing my master’s degree (hopefully in December folks!), and I’m getting much better at just saying no to things I can’t get with and taking a time out when things get a little crazy. I’m learning to listen to my inner voice and my body (which is super important as I’m getting older. 34 next month yall… and when 29tolife started, we were talking about the possibilities of what the 30s will bring! Ha!)

At any rate, I’m the kind of person who, I believe exudes a certain self-confidence (that I fight for daily). People in my life and strangers even compliment me on how I carry myself, and how I can motivate other people or make others feel good too. But at the root of it all, like I said, I fight for it. I have to pump myself up, and I’m elated when people tell me that I am beautiful or I did something well. It really helps. I think on twitter, I mentioned being what I call a “bad-ass scardy cat.”

I may try new things or things that scare the hell out of me, or make a life change that scares me, but once I’ve made up my mind, no matter how scared I am I do it. There you go, a bad-ass scardy cat.

Well on Jan 2, 2016, I may have outdone myself.

I got a tattoo. At 33 years old, I was eating breakfast with my cousin and I said I’m doing it today. She asked if I was sure, and with a piece of bacon in my mouth, I said yes. It was clear as a bell.

I knew I wanted a tattoo right then, that day, just as I knew my name. I just knew I had to do it. So after thinking about local places my friends have gone to, looking at the websites and recalling strong reputations for cleanliness, experience, ability and friendliness to newbies, I set out for the tattoo shop.

The place was pretty busy with folks also determined to get tatted or pierced, most folks adding to their collections.

I have to say my tattoo artist Jen, was the PERFECT person to do my tattoo. She was warm, kind, and had a bunch of bad-ass tattoos of her own. She made me feel completely at ease, even though my heart was beating out of my chest as the needle touched my skin for the very first time.

I asked her to please just keep talking to me, as she worked. I couldn’t bear to just let the buzzing hum of the needle and background noise of other conversations suffice.

Keep in mind, this act of badassery was going against everything my religious family believed was proper, especially for a woman. To my family, it probably would have even made more sense for me to do such a thing during college. But to be an established “professional” woman rolling into her mid-thirties, why now?

Now was the perfect time, because I am grown. I have lived enough to get a really good idea of who I am and who I’m not. I’ve had my heart broken, I’ve changed careers slightly, I’m expanding my education, I’ve changed my hair, I’ve lost weight, I’ve visited other countries. Whatever I choose to put on my body at this point wouldn’t be a whim, but a conscious decision.

That choice, was a lovely quill pen. The feather represents truth. The truth sets us free and makes us light as a feather. Birds are free and fly, they have feathers. I love the connection of it all. Whether I work in journalism or not, I’ll always be a writer. That will never change.

My truth will be ever-evolving as I continue to learn things, experience things and grow.

I think when Jen asked me why I wanted a quill, I wasn’t as eloquent as I was just now, but I mentioned being a journalist, the feather representing truth and how I really wanted this particular tattoo for YEARS, but never had the guts to do it.

By not being in a relationship, it was even easier not to be influenced by or wonder whether or not my partner thought it was a good idea or not, sexy or not, etc.

I truly believe the Belize trip was a catalyst for this. Ziplining through the jungle, getting a mud bath and being butt naked and painted and adorned in flowers and having myself photographed, it was liberating. It was an acceptance of myself that I wasn’t familiar with, but it fit. I saw myself in those pictures being adventurous and happy and comfortable with my body and my hair and just living. I loved that. This is me. This is who I am. This is who I’ve been all along.

Was it painful? Well, it wasn’t a massage, but it wasn’t waterboarding either. The best way I can describe it was a deep scratching, that became more sensitive depending on where the needle went. But it wasn’t that bad. Jen was quick and focused, while making me feel comfortable.

I went into journalist mode asking her about what it was like to do her very first tattoo, what was her own personal first tattoo, and if she doodled as a child. She went to college for fine arts, and found that tattoo artistry would be a reasonable and profitable way to make good on that education and how she enjoyed meeting so many different kinds of people. She admitted to giving a side-eye or two for people’s choices, and told me about how celebrities often send people in in droves to have identical ink.

She also mentioned how an audience can make people more dramatic while getting ink, and that women tend to appear to be in more pain if a boyfriend or group of girlfriends are around.

I thanked Jen and walked out with my cousin kind of new.

I felt a bit more edgy, but then I unpacked that confidence later as I proudly rubbed the After Ink ointment on my brand new tat. I kept looking at it and admiring it. It just felt like I was myself. I was always myself, and this was an outward manifestation of just how bad-ass I could really be, according to my own standards and there’s nothing more bad-ass or revolutionary than that.

 

 

Women, You’re Dating Each Other

A guy friend of mine who I very recently reconnected with after a few years blew my mind with an observation he made over drinks.

I’m still single, he’s still single. We probably met a good ten years ago, but stopped speaking after a perceived slight on my part. We didn’t discuss that.
But we did talk about the world of dating, how things have changed between our parent’s generation and how awful going to the club is, but how “Netflix and Chill” and online dating is contributing to our social downfall.

He lamented that our generation’s dating fails are connected to one thing our parents had on a regular basis, that we lack.

House parties.

He said that house parties were unpretentious. There, you got social, you danced with people, you met a few new people outside of your social network who were friends of friends, there was good food and drink. Who wouldn’t want to warm up and get friendly in that kind of environment? Anyone in attendance was already vetted by someone in the room that you know.

I agreed. I couldn’t think of the last time I went to such a party. The best ones were probably in college. The closest thing in my adult life were ones I’ve thrown on a far smaller scale, and a wine party hosted by a couple I know, that was mostly attended by other couples and was quite awkward for me in the beginning.

I digress.

He also made my ears perk up when he said, let’s face it. Most women are actually dating their friends and don’t realize it.

I blinked. I needed him to elaborate, so he did.

“Look, y’all go to the movies, out to dinner, to the theater. And y’all all look so nice too, but out with your girlfriends. Great restaurants everything. Y’all even go on vacations with each other. Y’all don’t need to date a man because you’re already doing it with your friends. At the club, you dance with each other and get mad if a man wants to break it up and ask one of you to dance.”

I had to laugh.

He was absolutely right. I’d just come off of an extraordinary trip to Belize with some girlfriends, and it’s not unusual to hit up my friends to go out for a nice meal or see a movie.

I was complaining a few weeks ago, that being a part of a support system for a crew full of single women was tough and could be emotionally draining.

It felt like I was pulling double duty, doing things for some of my friends that I think boyfriends should do, right down to helping each other move, fix things, hunt and remove rodents and insects, or helping each other shovel out our driveways in the winter.

Sisters are doing it for themselves, but it’s kind of worrisome.

We’re leaning on each other a lot, and there is a void of protection and security and companionship a man provides.

I was getting worn down from helping my friends recover from bad breakups, health problems and other issues.

I wanted my friends to have a man, so he can help carry the emotional load and just give my friends that dose of male stability they are yearning for. Not long ago, I even prayed a prayer, saying, “Lord, I don’t even need to be first. I can be last. But give my girls the partners they need and deserve.”

My male friend went further to explain that this is a female phenomenon.

“You don’t see groups of guys out with the same frequency of women going out together.”

I had to agree. My friends won’t ever be a substitute for a real date, but if there are nice things you want to do and you don’t want to sit around at home, you will invite your homegirls. Usually, those really cool things that would make a great date, you still want to go, whether you have a man or not. On three occasions, I’ve bought tickets to some really great concerts that I invited men on dates to, and I was either stood up, or we fell out by the time the concert came around. So, I’d invite a homegirl to join me, because I’m still going.

So by my male friend’s description, I have been going on a lot of “dates” with my friends. However, there are times I have really, really, really wanted and needed the company of a man and some flirtation. My friends can’t give me that, and I can’t give them that either. Do I tell my friends they are beautiful and awesome? All the time. But there is a difference and a tingle you get, when the right man hands you a well-timed compliment.

I’ve joked with some friends that honestly, it’s almost like we’re in a relationship anyway, the way we support and come to each other’s rescue because at the moment, there are no men to do so, or no “Steady Freddies” that have come along. But then my joke didn’t feel so funny when I really started to think about it.

I found myself getting angry. I was angry that so many women have to lean on each other when they are sick, tired, sad, mad and in-between.

I’m thankful for my village, but there needs to be more diversity. By diversity I mean penis. Penis support.

So what say you? Are you unconsciously dating your friends? Be real!!

In a land far away on another social media thread, I peeped that people said, this post made sense, but I had no solutions.

I don’t have solutions. I was sharing a really funny observation and perspective I hadn’t considered. It had some truth to it. So, Sway, on this one, I don’t have the answers.

I do think women shouldn’t sit at home and twiddle their thumbs. There’s so many great things to do and see. Waiting for a date (and sometimes your company is awful) isn’t the look. Pick who you want to spend time with and go and most importantly, have a great time, whether you’re with your homegirls, homeboys, boo, undercover lover, hotline bling…

Oooh, back to answers. I’ma go with my friend. OLD SCHOOL  HOUSEPARTY!!!

More specifically to my life, maybe for me, myself, personally, I should try to get my guy friend to take me on a date…

Grown Man Confidence

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve managed to see two amazing musicians, known for their persona of sex appeal almost as much as their mind-boggling musicianship and artistry.
I saw Prince two weeks ago, and saw D’Angelo last night.
Seeing these two amazing performers in the same month had to be Kismet, because there were a few things I peeped about them, that made me think about why people are so enamored and attracted to them. It also made me think about how most women are looking for similar elements in men. You don’t have to be a genius musician, but there are some basics that can be applied to anyone, to achieve real sex appeal and that intangible… attraction.
1. Confidence. So everyone says confident people are the ones who win at life. Being in the presence of confident people make us feel more at ease. Confident people seem to be in control and seem like they will be able to handle whatever is thrown at them.
I will say this about confidence. People say, oh, if you don’t have it fake it. But I say that’s putting a band-aid on a gaping hole in your flesh larger than a paper cut. Confidence develops over time, and is grown and cultivated and forged by failure and being embarrassed and bouncing back after being told no. Confidence develops when you do something someone said you couldn’t do, or when your version of good enough drowns out everyone else’s assessment.
2. Doing things you’re good at and pushing yourself to be even better. Nothing builds confidence more than doing things you’re good at. When people watch you do your thing (whatever that is) and you make it look effortless, watch people get drawn to you. They’ll want your opinion, they’ll want your approval. Watching D’Angelo and Prince perform made me want to pick up a guitar and sing. Now I’ve taken guitar lessons and it’s hard freaking work. I’ve played the drums for years, and it took practice not to suck. So people who have developed a level a mastery for what they do aren’t just sexy because of natural talent, they are sexy because they take it to the next level with hard work, dedication and discipline. There’s a certain devotion musicians have to their work, and trying to get better and experimenting with new sounds and being fluent in music and other artists. They are sponges, they have people they look up to, they study certain sounds or riffs over and over, and then they interpret it, weave it into their own sound to make something unique and new, rooted in the old. That’s levels of sexy.

3. Being yourself unapologetically. Prince and D’Angelo have taken some serious fashion risks. Sometimes they don’t come out with an album right away. Sometimes people don’t get their music. Some people may think certain songs are too sexual, or too political. R and B fans may not like the songs with a more rock edge, the rockers may not like the songs that sound more like R and B… but it doesn’t matter. These artists do what feels right to them, they wear what makes them feel good. Does it stand out? They pull it off because of confidence, but being yourself unapologetically and moving past all of the reactions, leads to the sexy confidence.

4. Inside out. Sexy grown men let the sexy radiate from the inside out. There are some men I know now that aren’t as thin or as muscular as they used to be, but a warm smile, an easy laugh, the sweat they build up from fixing something around the house or an auto repair, makes them irresistible. I’ve read articles that after the massive success of D’Angelo’s “Untitled (How Does It Feel?)” he struggled with body image and having to keep up that BODY that teased us in the video. Today’s D’Angelo is thicker, healthy looking and still making women swoon. He has a sly grin that seems like he’s about to lead you into some trouble and you are down for the ride. He had so much energy on the stage, there was joy on his face while he was working the crowd and receiving the love from the crowd. The man was in the moment. There have been times when I’ve observed men I love doing simple things, quietly, looking serene and self-satisfied. In those moments, they were sexy, and in those same moments when I catch them, I might offer them a hug or kiss without a word, because I appreciated seeing them in that moment. They’d wonder, “Oh, what’s that for?” and I’d just kiss them or hug them again and walk away.

5. Maturity. One of the greatest gifts of getting older and living is experience and maturity. Mature people can be confident without being arrogant. They can understand the power of confidence and how it may lead to influence, but they don’t abuse it. They don’t have to win every argument, but can firmly and passionately make a point that sticks with you well after the conversation is over. Mature and confident people don’t have to prove anything to anyone. Frankly, they don’t want to and they aren’t going to. Who they are and how they handle business and how they treat people in the face of adversity or in the pit of failure, in their mind, says what needs to be said. As far as they’re concerned you can take them or leave them, and it doesn’t change their life or who they are, they’re going to keep being who they are. I won’t say that nothing phases confident people, but criticisms, or suggestions don’t turn their world upside down, or represent an accurate reflection of who they are. When people know that, they hold on to their power instead of giving it away to every person with an opinion. They gather more strength to say no when they mean no and yes when they mean yes.

Do you know of any other qualities that make a grown man sexy?

“Dope” is the New American Teen Classic (And over 30s will LOVE this movie, but for different reasons)

Last night, I was so weary from everything I was seeing on the news from the last week.

I was emotionally bruised and battered. Between Rachel Dolezal playing and pretending as a black woman, issues of race and color playing out in the Dominican Republic with the removal of anyone seeming to look Haitian, and then the gruesome shooting of nine innocent people worshiping in a church, it was all too much.

I was totally ready to escape and watch a nerdy, smart black kid and his friends navigate living in the hood and pursuing their dreams of college. “Dope” delivered and then some.

Dope keeps the spirit of- and sticks to a very familiar formula of most American teen classics: be thrown into a situation where the main character and his or her friends are in over their heads, but manage to creatively outwit their enemies/bullies/authority figures, stumble in romance and attempts to get laid, surprise themselves, go to parties, make mistakes and by the movie’s end, mature right before our eyes. You know,  just doing the things kids do.

While writer and director Rick Famuyiwa (thanks for retweeting me last night!!), stays with the formula of teen cult classics, his story and the presentation are far from run-of-the-mill (and for the mill he don’t run… Hip Hop heads will catch the reference, anyway…). The writing is sharp and current, the characters are relatable, flawed, innocent, (sometimes) street smart and full of heart.

While the main character Malcolm and his friends are outsiders, they are very well aware of their world in inner-city Inglewood, California, I love that there are moments in the film where being a nerd in the hood served as a protective factor to give them an advantage in certain situations, but also contributed to gaps in their common hood knowledge (i.e. timing of monthly school drug sweeps).

Dope didn’t disappoint and it was genius because it manged to do something amazing. On the surface, it would not seem intergenerational, but it is. Even though these kids are a good 16 years younger than me, the writing from this story made me see myself when I was growing up, taking AP classes and accused of acting white, but also scrambling to exit the hood parties when the cops showed up to shut it down.

The struggle of teenagers trying to find themselves is a universal theme movies have always celebrated for a long time now. Thanks to John Hughes and his “bratpack,” it’s a genre that really picked up steam in the 80s that’s not going anywhere. Someone just told me they saw articles and reviews on Dope that accurately describe that it’s a where John Hughes and John Singleton meet. I can’t agree more. American Classic!!!

In Malcolm and his friends, I saw Duckie from “Pretty In Pink” (1986). Remember his obsession with old school music and style? Yup, Malcom’s crew’s obsession with 90s Hip Hop in a 2015 world is a strong parallel. The vulnerability and the awkwardness of Molly Ringwald in any movie she did back then, I also saw in Malcolm while trying to gain the affections of Nakia. The kind of adventure Malcolm and his friends experienced, and those moments you find yourself thinking they’re going to get caught, and holding your breath reminded me a lot Ferris Bueller (1986) or “Adventures in Babysitting” (1987). I saw Craig from “Friday” (1995) when inevitably, Malcolm has to show some heart and bravery and stand up to some very scary people, despite his friends often cutting tail and running.

The influence of the drug culture in this movie totally brought me back to the movie “Go!” (1999) where some unlikely characters are forced to moonlight as drug dealers and move the merchandise in creative ways, while trying to avoid the dangers of police and other unsavory characters in the drug world. Other friends said they saw elements of “Risky Business” (1983). I also recognized “House Party” (1990), as Malcolm and his friends love a wide variety of music and perform their own and it’s pretty darn good. And in the spirit of movies like the “House Party”  franchise, or movies featuring Hip Hop stars like Ed Lover and Dr. Dre’s “Who’s the Man” (1993), there are plenty of great cameos by today’s hip hop artists, including Tyga and most notably, A$AP Rocky (who now my old ass has developed a crush on, SMH) who played a very charismatic drug dealer Dom. Supermodel Chanel Iman showed that beautiful girls can be terribly gross, and Dope featured rising superstar Zoe Kravitz, the genetically perfect progeny of Lisa Bonet (Denise Muthafucking Huxtable) and Lenny Kravitz. The celeb children appearances don’t end with Zoe, who totally channeled her mother and was the Uber cool Nakia. The casting choice of Quincy Brown (son of Al B. Sure (Stepdaddy P. Diddy) and long time Hip Hop stylist to the stars and Diddy’s baby mama, Misa Hylton Brim) was a surprisingly good one. He had a brief, but strong and very funny appearance playing a privileged son of a successful man from Malcolm’s hood, hilariously co-opting his dad’s street cred as his own (I wonder if he was making fun of himself a little bit…). There’s a great and super smart scene where even the blerds (black nerds) poke fun at how out of touch he really is with “the hood” and confuses him in the process.

As with the standard teen classic, there were impossible crushes who give our hero a little hope of reciprocity, and a hierarchy of bullies, jerks and druggies and cool kids. There were caring parents who seemed to never be around (a prerequisite for a great teen film), but show up with a word of encouragement and unconditional love. And in Dope, the lovely Kimberly Elise plays that position as Malcolm’s caring, attractive, hardworking bus-driver, single mother.

Dope sets the standard in handling how the new generation is dealing with the mashup of race, gender and sexuality in a clever, and intelligent way. Malcolm and crew have a brilliant, white hacker/druggie friend (who spends most of the film wanting to have permission to use the N-word), and within the crew, Dig is a lesbian galpal who is often mistaken for a boy, but pulls off a quirky, androgynous kind of sexy probably purposely reminiscent of TLC, when she occasionally chooses to wear midriff tops and sports bras instead of loose baggy clothing from head-to-toe. Jib, never specifically says what he is, except when he self-identified as “14 percent African.” The closest we get, was a description of Jib’s ethnicity by their befuddled white friend Will, as a mixture of middle eastern…

Well-played, writers.

There were some other nuances that I enjoyed about this movie especially in terms of looking at the “scary” drug dealers or gang members. And how bad guys come in a variety of forms, some not so obvious. Dope shows you that even the “thugs” are really just kids. I love one interaction where an OG security guard (who is De’aundre Bonds all grown up from Spike Lee’s “Get on the Bus”) reads a gang member from cover-to-cover explaining that he ran the streets with his dad and to try him and the kid stands down. There was some comedy with some of the drug dealers revealing some were smarter than they seem or weren’t always the cool guys on the block. And some of the characters were silly, reminding me of how Full Force used to chase Kid N’ Play around in several movies. They were bullies, but generally, they just wanted to have fun and be invited to the parties too.

Malcolm’s punk band Awreeooh (pronounced Oreo) could rock a party just as hard as Kid and Play did. Speaking of which, some of the epic party scenes and the social media aspects of Dope’s storyline reminded me of a recent teen hit “Project X” (2012), where another group of “nobody” kids decide to make a name for themselves, go balls to the wall and finally get some. Murphy’s Law played a significant role in Dope as it did in the Harold and Kumar flicks. I’m also reminded of certain scenes in both films when gorgeous women are found doing really gross things… Oh Chanel Iman!

I could really go on about the genius of this film because while it felt familiar across generations, the story was fresh, but it’s built to hold up over time. My nephew is 11, and I bet you he’s going to discover this film in high school or have it downloaded into whatever new technology he’ll bring to college and watch it with his friends over and over and love it too.

One final piece to making an American teen movie a certified classic, is the soundtrack. We know the John Hughes movies by the music. We just do. I’m an old head, and I love the blend of late 80’s and 90’s and early 2000 hip hop classics with some of the newer music of today. It was only fitting that Pharrell Williams, a.k.a. Skateboard P, founding N.E.R.D. member (who actually helped a lot of black nerds get some love), led the sonic effort as the music supervisor of the film. Because Mr. “Happy” himself had personal experience as a Malcolm, and a student of hip-hop who forged his own unique sound, Dope’s soundtrack is going to also stand the test of time, pleasing old heads and young bucks alike.

You can tell a lot of thought and heart went into the making of this film, it’s music and the selection of the cast. Newcomer Shamiek Moore (Malcolm) has a bright future ahead. I’d love to see a sequel where he may have to get the band back together… I think there’s fertile ground for it based on how the story ended. GO SEE THIS DAMN MOVIE. I’m probably going to see it again before the weekend’s out.

CLASSIC.

Good Friends Remind You of How Super You Are When You Forget

There are times I take on a lot.

I get frustrated and overwhelmed and I may huff and puff during the process, but things seem to work out.

Recently, I had about three friends suck their teeth at me when I started doubting myself. A beloved professor and mentor of mine was retiring from the university, so as a joke I told a friend I’d design a funny tee-shirt in his honor. (Some of you lifers remember when I was heavy on my t-shirt business and kind of gave up on it.)

My friend loved the idea and then I shared it with a few others and they all wanted shirts in time for the retirement celebration. I told my friends the money we’d collect from our shirts would go toward a scholarship fund being created in our professor’s honor. Everyone thought it was a fantastic idea.

My friend reminded me that just as they loved the idea, other people at the party were going to love it too, and to be prepared for an onslaught of orders. Another friend who was so tickled by the idea offered to build me a webstore prior to the event.

But the idea of my shirt being such a success scared the crap out of me.

How would I organize this? How would I handle the orders? Would people be willing to pay the price? How would I ship it? Is it the right quality? Is it good enough?

The thought of the business management side of it paralyzed me.

So I said, I’d just buy a couple extra shirts on top of the ones I promised to a few friends attending and would see how things went.

My friends were right.

As soon as we hit the building, people wanted shirts. We sold every single “extra” shirt (and by extra I only had three extra because I was worried about putting out so much money for extra shirts out of my own pocket because I told my friends all of their money would go to the scholarship. I was willing to take the financial hit.)

The man of the hour put on his free shirt immediately! (If that’s not affirmation, I don’t know what is.)

Illustrious alumni with highly impressive careers sought me out and quipped that they could afford a $20 shirt, so gimme!

I felt silly and embarrased and unprepared by only having such a scant amount of merchandise in a place with such enthusiastic demand.

So immediately, my website builder friend made me, in the middle of the party buy a domain name, via a smart phone and my other friends offered to help me pack and ship orders and work on a Facebook page. Then they all got together and said, “I told you so.” Even named themselves the, “I told you so crew” and did an “I told you so” dance.

I mentioned this situation to another friend completely unrelated to the ones at the party and when I told her how things went and how scared I was to really promote the shirts, she gave me the “you idiot” glare, then she offered to assist me too.

Photos of the shirts from the party circulating on Facebook have total strangers asking about them in the comments and saying things like, “Take my money!” “Want one!” “Need one!”

I got business cards and slips of paper with phone numbers and email addresses of people who wanted to know when more shirts were being made.

I was overwhelmed. But in a positive way.

I say all of this to say, it pays to have friends who believe in you when you’re scared. It’s downright funny when they get annoyed that you aren’t seeing what they see in you too. What’s the best about these kinds of friends is, they don’t just believe in your dream and say you can do it, they’ll give you a push and offer up their time, skills and talents and even money to invest in you so you can feel even more confident and less alone in the process.

The original friend who I shared the idea with me told me that it was bothersome that somewhere along the way I lost my confidence. That the old me would have not been so fearful about making the shirts and selling them.

And she was right. I’m not sure exactly of what happened or why. And maybe all of that doesn’t matter.

I’m just glad to know that I have amazing people in my life who will remind me, and force me if necessary to get it back and fly.

Thank you!!!

Work, School, Book Club Too?

On top of everything else going on in my life, working full-time, being a graduate school student, I’ve added a book club to the list.
It started off innocently enough. Some very smart, sweet, creative and conscious women from my former job had been meeting with each other to discuss books and art and culture and to just unwind and share goodies (hand-made and store bought) for some time.
A dear co-worker of mine mentioned that they were reading one of my new favorites “Americanah” and I was very curious about the perspective of this very diverse group of women. So I crashed the party.
After having a very wonderful time– they were excited to see me since I’d recently left that job– I was invited to return anytime and to read the next book.
So despite homework, assignments, class and work, I took on the next selection, which was massive “The Goldfinch” and although I stayed up all hours of the night to complete it in time for the next gathering, I enjoyed the book a great deal, and enjoyed talking about it with this group even more.
Our next meeting is coming around the first of the month and have I started the book yet?
Of course not. I plan to this week for sure.
Should I be taking on any other extra activities, common sense says no, but my intellectual and creative side says yes.
For some reason, it’s worth it to me not only to read these books, that I may not have otherwise selected for myself and voluntarily spend a Saturday morning being the youngest in a group of women of different backgrounds and cultures, married and single, mothers and childless.
It enriches my soul in a time where I’m racing to get things done. It allows me to slow down, and be nurtured by other women who’ve been there and done that and who get my yearning for education and beautiful things and humanity.
I enjoy how they show pride in all of the things I’m trying to accomplish and encourage me that I can in fact, pull it off.
They are like doting aunties who want me to find Prince Charming, but are relieved it’s not an obsession. They understand how important the expanding of my mind is to me and they share that vision in their own personal lives.
I appreciate their honesty and confusion about issues of race and sexuality and what it is to be a woman in the world. It’s refreshing to discuss these things in a civilized way with people who are outside of my usual circle.
What I appreciate the most is knowing how different we are, but seeing just how similar we are too. We are curious, we love sweets, we appreciate art and music and culture, we love books and we love talking about them.
The most wonderful thing about a great book is the tangential life discussions and real anecdotes that arise from a fictitious character’s struggle or triumph.
As a black woman, I’ve often stayed away from book clubs because many black women want to read books by only black authors. I can understand why. When you escape, you want to be in a world that looks like you and talks like you and thinks like you. For me, I only want that sometimes, and not every book by every black author is good. So what excites me about the book group I’m in is the value the non-black members place in reading books about black people as well as people of all races, genders or sexuality. Their acceptance of Americanah, made me more interested in their book choices that involved non-black characters because I was confident, they were simply picking really great books, period. When they suggested books by international authors, I knew I was in the right place.
Reading great books makes us smarter, makes us critical thinkers, exercises our imagination and gives us access to worlds that may be impenetrable in real life.
The book club is just as essential as my studies or my job because it feeds my soul. Staying up later to do some extra reading is only a small sacrifice to make for what I’ve gained in return as a human.

Who Are the Undatables? And Are They Really Just That?

A bartender asked me out and I said yes.

He said he meets women all the time and exchanges numbers and the women never want to follow-up.
I said, well maybe they change their minds and say to themselves, they can’t date a bartender. You guys are always entertaining people. You have to have a healthy sense of self-esteem and ego to date bartenders period.

He said when he’s off the clock he keeps a very low profile considering he has to be in the mix all week. People always assume he’s a player or wants to be out in the streets turning up.

It made me think of other professions that men have that would give me and most women the side eye.

Most women don’t want to seriously date a male exotic dancer. Most women want to do their personal trainer, but don’t want to date them seriously because well, personal trainers are notorious for hooking up with clients saying that they never hook up with clients but will do it just this once.

To be fair, I don’t think anyone is undateable. We all need love, we want attention and we want to spend time with someone who genuinely wants to spend time with us.

But there were actually a few reasons I was willing to give this bartender a chance.

1. He’s handsome. (Shallow I know)
2. He pays attention to details.
3. He’s patient.
4. He fixes a mean mojito.
5. He’s clearly a hard worker and knows how to serve others.
6. He’s a good conversationalist.
7. He can anticipate and adapt to all kinds of situations and people.
8. There’s some chemistry.

Now let me get to the details and patient thing, because that really set all of this up and let me know he was being for real.

There was one other time he and another bartender were both “pretending” to “fight” over me. It was pretty funny. Every time I go to this spot for a bite to eat and a drink after a long day of work I chat it up with them. And at one point the competition was getting interesting. But I laughed it off and kept it moving.

Prior to that me and this bald, chocolatey morsel had a great convo a very long time ago and he said to me, “You know, I’d really try to talk to you, but I’m with someone.”

It was odd to me that he said this, I paid it no mind. I want to say that this was probably sometime last year.

Fast forward to last night.
He’s serving drinks, small talk is going on and then he just says, “I’d really like to take you out sometime. I’m serious.”

I laugh, because I instantly remember his unsolicited rejection of me several months prior.

“Hey, do you remember you actually told me you’d talk to me, but you couldn’t because you were with someone. What happened?”

“We were engaged and it ended. We even bought a house together.”

“Damn, welcome to the broken engagement club, one up high!” I raised my hand for a high-five. He shook his head, laughed and slapped my hand.

At this point I said why not and fought the urge to think of Miranda and Steve from Sex and the City. I guess I already did…

He asked me about my dating situation, and I had to laugh at that too, because the first thing that came to mind was the date I walked out of about three weeks ago.

But oddly enough, I temporarily forgotten about a sweet, simple date over Italian Ices I had with a recycled guy friend who just tends to be a bit more passive about his interest in me than I’d like.

So it’s open season. I’m a free agent. I owe no one nothing and that’s how I’m going to play this thing.

From that point, he shared weird music with me that he’s into from his phone. I told him this is the kind of music people play in high-end boutiques, where sales people can deduce your tax bracket with one glance and there are three items of clothing hanging on a rack, in the sparsely furnished store, none of which are over a size 6.

He laughed, “Not even a six. We carry negative numbers.”

He’s funny and quick. I like this…

Then he complimented my hair, which always gets points.

“Every time you come here I compliment your hair. I just love it.”

“I know, and I love getting compliments on it. I’ve been natural a little over two years now, and for some reason it still surprises me and makes me feel really good when people compliment me on it.”

And all of a sudden we were talking about how I gradually decided to become natural.

I told him about school. He told me about his plans for a business he’d like to open.

He told me he really liked talking to me.

We talked about common sense not being so common.
He sang a little.
I told him I’ve already figured out our first date. Karaoke.
He told me he cleaned up nicely outside of work.
I told him I had no doubt and giggled because it reminded me of the breakdown in Alicia Keys’ “You don’t know my name.” The part where the waitress tells her crush patron that she looks different outside her work clothes.

So he’s a bartender. He’s charming. Generally those things are warning signs, but I saw some other positive signs too. He’d been interested for some time, saw an opportunity, was direct and respectful and he went for it. Hence I decided off of those factors, this was a situation worth exploring.

“Is it too soon to call you tomorrow?”

“Not at all.”

A New List of Things You Need To Know As A Woman In Your 30s

I feel like I make this list like once a year. Normally, I’m inspired by a conversation I’ve had or an experience.

I’m just avoiding studying. But please add these things you need to know as a woman in your 30s. I may repeat some I’ve said before.

1. If you like it buy it in every color.

I was in NY and Company the other day and I found pants and tops that fit well, and I straight up bought multiples. You’ll see how important this is. You need ONLY things in your closet that make you feel good about yourself and like you are the finest person walking the earth. Facts.

2. Own at least one freakum dress. It doesn’t have to be scandalous if scandalous is not your thing, but going back to number one, it needs to fit and flatter your body and your favorite assets and make you feel sexy when you wear it.

3. Embrace your shape, understand it and find things that work with it.

Sometimes this means you can’t go with the crowd. Or the latest trends. If there’s something that looks awesome on you, stick to it and don’t let go, you will be timeless and polished.

4. Accessorize. I’ve always noticed that older women had tons of jewelry, real, costume, hats, scarves, brooches. They adorn themselves. Lately, I’ve noticed the power of adding a statement necklace to a simple outfit and it takes my ensemble to another more mature and unique level. It helps bring out my personality so I can stand out from the crowd. And shopping for accessories is just fun.

5. Never underestimate the power of the T. Whether you get cheap tees or more expensive ones, plain black or white tees make you look like you woke up like dis. Keep it simple, rock it with a blazer for work, and amp it up with a great necklace and boom. You look all effortless.

6. Keep mints, lip gloss, tampons and at least $20 in your purse at all times. The last part is most difficult for me as I’m always reaching for plastic. But the times that I actually do carry cash, it just feels like a safety net juuuuust in case!

7. Read stuff.

Read anything, read the newspaper, read the magazines, read books, join a book club. Grown women are informed and keep growing and have interesting things to talk about and an opinion. Books are easy ways to develop opinions and provide good party chatter.

8. Vitamins.

I had to learn about this one the hard way, but for real for real, B complex has changed my life this week. I can press on just a little bit further thanks to these energy boosting vitamins recommended by my doctor.

9. High/Low As a grown woman, you have every right to indulge in an expensive handbag, pair of shoes, suit or fantastic coat or pair of jeans. So for big items that you’ll use forever, I say go for it if you can afford to or save for it and then buy your cheaper items to go with them. When you’re grown, you want to stay polished. That’s the goal.

10. Have a signature drink you like to order, signature fragrance, and signature dish you can cook and cook well EVERY time. It just makes you feel good about yourself.

11. Take dance breaks. Throw on your favorite jam and just dance.

12. If you are wrong, beat folks to the punch and own up to it.

13. If you know you are wrong before you do something and you’ve made the decision to do it anyway, then George Bush that shit. Don’t hide. Bask in your wrongness and if anyone has something to say about it, say you did it for America and keep it pushing.

14. Truth over everything. When you know better you do better.

15. Try something new. Do not be afraid to step out of your comfort zone, fail, or look silly. Just try. Trying shouldn’t be for kids or folks screwing up in their 20s. As long as you are breathing you better find the sweetness of life and the feeling of accomplishment when you do something you’ve never done.

16. Travel. That’s it.

17. Be cool with going out alone. Start with the movies or a play. Something that doesn’t require anything but your attention and everyone shutting up. Then elevate and take yourself to dinner, but don’t get a table for one… have dinner at the bar. You’ll meet interesting people and bartenders like to give you free drinks or discounts for bringing more boys to the yard who’ll pay full price.

18. Be kind, be giving, be gracious.

20. Smile at yourself, laugh at yourself out loud when you do ridiculous things or look silly or fall down. Like, there are times I got so into it, I couldn’t stop laughing and that felt good. I’m serious though take a moment to smile at yourself in the mirror at work in the bathroom. Don’t give yourself a fake smile either, smile at yourself like yo, I like you. You’re cool people. And after you say that, if you’re me, you’ll start laughing at yourself for even saying something like that. But to see yourself naturally smile at yourself or laugh at yourself, it’s kind of nice.

21. When you have a tingle to check on someone or just ask them, how are you today? Or are you alright? DO IT! IT MAKES A DIFFERENCE. Even if you text some one and say “I’m thinking of you.” Or tell them something you like about them, it makes all the difference in the world.

22. Say you’re not ok, when you’re not ok. Some folks ain’t gonna know how to react to this. Expect their inability to react because they are used to folks lying, so this is going to throw them off. Tell them it’s ok that you know they have absolutely nothing perfect to say to fix it, but you are just satisfied with them caring.

23. Ask for help. If you don’t know, ask for help and be bold about it. I don’t know, I don’t understand, but I’m smart at other things, so my ego isn’t bruised. Help me so I can be good at this too. Most people will appreciate that you kept it so real and be very eager to help you understand. This is truth.

24. Be proactive. If you see things about to take a twist or a turn and you know you can prevent it or lessen the blow, then do so.

25. This is linked with 24. DON’T WAIT ON NOBODY ELSE TO FILL IN THE BLANK. If there’s something you want to do and folks keep making excuses or blowing it off go back to number 17. If you need courage go back to number 20 and remember number 15.

26. You are in charge of your narrative. Don’t let anyone else write it or define it. You do that. You represent you. If folks have it wrong, you have every right to correct their uninformed asses.

27. Stop cussin. LOL. Only do so for emphasis and impact to let fools know you ain’t playing and that this is not a drill.

28. If you did it right, the walk of shame is a strut of satisfaction.

29. If you really regretted it and didn’t have a child from the situation, you can subtract that bad situation from your “number” I’ll allow it.. like twice. But don’t get carried away.

30. If you are a woman in your 30s, you already know that you’ve never felt this alright with yourself and secretly looking forward to how bad ass you’ll be at 40.

How do you get to the breakthrough?

My eyes are about to fall out of my head.

I can’t do much more of this homework for tomorrow.

But I really needed to blog.

I met with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while and she congratulated me on my new job and all of that fabulous good stuff.

Oh yeah. I finished my first module of grad school with one A-, B and a B+. I think that’s darn good for full-time employment and not being in school for ten years! Patting myself on the back.

But getting back to the point. The friend sighed and said, “What did you do to get to the breakthrough?”

Her question totally threw me off.

While great things are happening to me right now, I still feel overwhelmed a lot of times, nervous and anxious that I don’t want to screw it all up or disappoint myself or not excel to the point where I come short of the blessing of it all. So I’m busting my hump, and I’m not doing a whole lot of sleeping and I’m waking up early.

But her question also gave me great perspective on what I put out there.

I’ve been vocal that my life ain’t been no crystal stair, but it hasn’t been just some long, difficult traumatic experience. I’ve never been abused, I’ve never really gone without and I know successful people who have been in those situations. And they blow me away.

So I sat and thought about it. And I gave her this list.

I made a conscious decision after not getting another really awesome job that fine, God if I’m supposed to stay at my job, you have a reason why I’m supposed to stay here and I accepted that.

Now that did not mean I thought I didn’t deserve better or I should just stay there forever. But I decided to pick out the 16 things that I was thankful for and decided there were advantages to being where I was at the time.

Which led to the decision to get a master’s degree.

Which led to getting the information and having really aggressive admissions officers strong-arm me into taking the GRE and making admission deadlines.

Before I knew it, I was putting my energy into something real instead of coming home every day and vegging out. Man, I miss free time!! I have a deeper appreciation even for my Target runs or times I can go out with my friends.

So once I accepted my situation and started being conscious about telling God thank you, it opened me up to do new things.

Then at work, new opportunities happened where I could try new things and impress folks and that was awesome. It boosted my confidence. I got a chance to lead and I decided to use those opportunities as practice for whenever the next phase of my fabulous life was going to begin and require that level of confidence and aptitude.

Giving up online dating and stressing over finding a man, and even giving into urges to have meaningless flings and being honest with myself that I deserved more and deserved and really desired intimacy, it was easier to ignore the late night “are you up?” texts from men I normally couldn’t resist.

Sometimes you got to give some stuff up.

I was praying more.

But not those formal prayers with all the extras. I started talking to God like anyone else and I was talking to him when I studied, when I was driving to and from work and saying what was really on my mind. What I was afraid of, how grateful I was for everything I had, opportunities, comforts. I told Him about things that upset me, things I didn’t think were very fair or people who pissed me off. I was getting way more real.

I was working on being more transparent, getting more comfortable with who I am and giving myself more credit.

I was constantly writing down things goals, dreams. I daydreamed again about things I’m interested in, the things that make me happy and things I’m passionate about and I wanted to place myself in close proximity to those things. I wanted to keep my thoughts on those things.

I shared with people how much I valued and appreciated them. I agree that an attitude of gratitude can change things. Opening yourself up to people, finding ways to help other people and do nice things for people just from your heart can do wonders.

Appreciating the small things and being happy for other people when good things happen to them and being that way for real. Not in a phony way.

There’s no one way to have the “breakthrough.” You have to break through and that requires work. It requires a bit of risk-taking and stepping out to really examine what’s in your heart, what’s important to you, what your values are and what you believe in and doing things that bring you closer to that. It seems like the rest follows from there.

Being grateful for what you have right now and realizing that you’ve already got a lot and have what you need puts things into perspective. If you are never satisfied, you will never be satisfied. There’s nothing wrong with setting new goals and wanting more, but you should take time to take inventory of what’s good right now and how far you’ve come.

Another friend this week mentioned that I tend to have a positive outlook on life. Once again, it threw me off, because I know the times I felt like I was swirling around the toilet of life. But I take it all as a compliment and a blessing and if people can see a positive light in me, I’m blessed.

The original friend who asked me about the breakthrough, I asked her about what she was passionate about and I encouraged her to pick up the phone and volunteer for an organization that supports what she loves. She may not be getting paid for it now, but an opportunity could come later. We all got to pay bills and that’s real, but I keep learning when there’s something burning in your heart, if you take a step in that direction and do some of the inconvenient, uncomfortable work, you will get to where you want to be.

Breakthrough.

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