Title Reference: Terms used to describe the light-skinned vs. dark-skinned characters in Spike Lee’s 1988 film School Daze (a film that explored intra-racism on a college campus).
Today I was reminded that it is important to read and become acquainted with other cultures. Doing so reminds us that we, mankind, share many of the same insecurities and issues. This was evident when reading Annie Khan’s article in the November 2012 issue of Marie Claire. Her piece Fair and Lovely, documents her journey growing up in Pakistan harboring insecurities about her darker skin to the point of trying a skin lightening cream and later modeling for that same product. While reading her piece, I was shaking my head, my own memories of growing up black in rural-suburban Maryland flooding my brain. I always attended private predominately white schools and so, being young and ignorant (in the dictionary sense of the word), I often wished to be white or light-skinned with curly hair. I shunned my nappy hair and burnt sienna coloring.
Like Khan’s parents, mine thought I looked just fine and did not perpetuate stereotypes; however I would venture to guess I was impacted by what I was seeing in magazines and music videos. During the late 80s and early 90s of my formative years, light-skinned and curly-haired were the primary black ‘reflection’ the entertainment industry allowed. Everything I saw around me in my daily life outside my home fed into whatever insecurities I already had. It took years for me to celebrate my unique color bequeathed me by my ancestors.
In college I finally met other black girls like me who were accused of ‘acting white’ because they didn’t split verbs, liked alternative and rock music, and had white friends. Now I know that didn’t make me any less black, but back then local black youth quite enjoyed highlighting my shortcomings at fitting in with ‘my people’. That’s why Toure’s 2012 book Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness? was so intriguing to me. Toure discussed what it actually means to be black and if there is a definition of blackness. He leaves it up to the reader to answer the question but one could venture to say there is no one definition.
Thankfully I have since embraced my heritage as well as my color. Khan’s article is a visceral reminder of my insecure youth and struggles to accept myself; I’m so far removed from my former self-hatred that I rarely dip into this well of memories. Thank you Khan for sharing your story!
Do you ever notice those people who go out of their way to cravenly compliment someone in the hopes of making new friends? I know I sound judgey and I am (don’t judge me) but I have watched this unfold. Recently at the jobbie I watched as a woman (known for false pretense) complimented another (who never talks to her, ever) on her shawl. None of this would have triggered anything in me; except for the ‘shawl’ the other woman was wearing was actually an unremarkable navy blue promotional Long Beach, California blanket. The font on the blanket was not particularly fascinating either. I stared aghast as the needy chick revealed her desperate desire for approval. Perhaps I’m being unfair, maybe she hasn’t caught on that she needs glasses and thought the ‘shawl’ was a soft luxurious cashmere throw rather than a nubby blanket meant to shield arms and neck from overzealous air conditioning vents.
I’m shameless and must admit this little display was deeply satisfying from a hysteria perspective. When I’m at work, what gets me through when the going gets tough are these beautiful little moments where people reveal their true selves. As entertaining as these reveals are, I’m bothered that at my age, just turned 37 thank you very much; grown ass women are acting like they’re one of the fringe kids in high school. I hate when people kick up dirt unearthing my buried mean girl…after all she’s in a shallow grave so it doesn’t take much.
In high school I was one of those chicks that had that ‘cool with everybody’ vibe. I hung out with my core crew but frequently mixed it up chilling with different groups. Despite this, I had an inner mean girl, an inactive mean girl if you will. I’m the type who never -after the notorious middle school years of crack on someone or be cracked on- started shit with someone just because I felt like it. My mean girl would come out of hibernation when someone, kinda like the chick described above, would lay themselves prostrate in front of me with some situation so ludicrous and desperate my innate contempt would rise to the surface. For instance, I had many party nights in high school, many of them memorable but one particular one stands out. Me and my girl K went to a party, the guy who was throwing the party was (in retrospect) probably an early 20s rocker who became a paraplegic due to a motorcycle accident. He was cool in the, having an apartment beer-buying kind of way.
One particular evening a group of us high school kids were getting progressively drunk while watching dude pop wheelies in his chair. Well I’m thinking his excitement at having two dilly drunk chicks in his lap pumped his adrenaline because after they got up he popped a succession of wheelies to my beer-stained delight. My inner mean girl bubbling just below the surface, mirth flooding my bloodstream, dude popped the wheelie that ejected my last bit of control. I do believe he sat back on the back wheels for what seemed like a long time, arms flailing, before the chair crashed back, the little navigational front wheels still spinning. There really was a moment of silence and then the eruption of laughter, even dude was laughing although I’m sure his was a mixture of embarrassment and drunkenness. He was eventually lifted up by someone, whom I can’t even remember because I was laughing with the gasping breath of someone who needed to be slapped to be brought back. Eventually my tears and laughter subsided and never once was there a moment of regret. I attribute this to the fact that although I was partying with this guy I didn’t feel sorry for him; I thought it was pathetic that he partied with teenagers and tongued down the girls who would let him. So I laughed and had no shame.
Nowadays I try to do better but it’s not always easy. I’m always noticing things I shouldn’t and my friends enjoy letting me know those things I missed. I guess I’m just going to have to thrust that inner mean girl a little further back in my closet behind my summer shoes. Now I wish I owned the movie…I was never out of control like those chicks but I guess I can’t act holier than though can I?
Last night I attended a reading at my university. Author Susan Kushner Resnick read from her bookYou Saved Me, Too: What a Holocaust Survivor Taught Me About Living, Dying, Loving, Fighting, and Swearing in Yiddish.
Hearing an author speak the words they wrote is such an intimate experience. As she read from her book, the images she painted were so clear that I felt as if I was witness to a private moment. I heard no wasted words. Her descriptions, deftly executed, seamlessly tied a scene or passage together.
As a first year student in my first memoir class, hearing and reading other non-fiction authors, I’m starting to see my weaknesses: unnecessary words, rambling long paragraphs and writing in the past tense. This doesn’t deter me in the least. In fact, hearing an author like Resnick is motivation.
Please check out her book, I plan to read asap!
Link to book info (take a look inside): http://www.amazon.com/You-Saved-Me-Too-Holocaust/dp/076278038X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1334340436&sr=1-1
…say the title like Kelly, my favorite chic on Misfits
I absolutely love my memoir class! Love is such an overused word but for lack of a better one at the moment I’ll keep it. I actually enjoy my reading assignments and the subtlety of learning in this graduate program. I really do feel like a teething baby: I’m growing something new, it hurts, but the payoff is worth it.
Tonight my professor, Marion Winick, shared a story she wrote entitled Sixteen Pictures of My Father; she read this piece to the class. Hearing her read her own story allowed me to note the inflections in her voice, the accents portrayed, and the picture she painted through words. Somehow the story and her reading of it unearthed me; I was caught totally unaware. All of a sudden I was emotionally tugged into her story and was surprised by my reaction, so I wanted to share this piece: http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/sixteen-pictures-of-my-father/Content?oid=873999
Now to blast all of this introspection to bits…I’m about to watch Real Housewives of New York!
Above are photos from the remainder of my vacation from last week. I ended the week by heading to Ft. Greene to hang out with my brother and catch up with old friends. I had hoped to see Streetcar Named Desire, a movie I always loved…I mean Marlon Brando was smokin’ back in the day, but imagine the joy of seeing this same story with a black cast led by Blaire Underwood…nuff said! Rather than go to a play as my funds were quite paltry and there were no $10 tickets to be found I did not attend any shows and/or plays…actually side note: if anyone knows how to access the cheapie Broadway tix please share…I simply was outside of Bmore enjoying the sights, sounds, and scents of a city that I can finally visit again now that I have family living in the city. I told my brother that when he moved to Brooklyn my real estate sky rocketed as I like to believe I have a stake and a claim in his living quarters because I have a key to his apartment which is lovely and quite bachelor-like all at once…even better it’s not cramped! So back to my vacay; my brother took me around to some of his favorite eateries and we simply caught up, met up with some of his friends, did a teensy bit of shopping, and relished the rooftop view and cool breeze of an 11th floor panoramic NYC cityscape. The above pictures give you a little taste of the places I visited and of the vibe I enjoyed while out of town. Picture captions starting at the top are as follows:
- Biggie mural right across the street from Lafayette stop
- 11th floor rooftop rose’-NYC skyline (don’t know how to add accent above e)
- 11th floor rooftop dusk-NYC skyline
- 11th floor straight down BK bound
Friday day to night
- What the hell are these things called? Close up on sparkly clutch aka a poor man’s Judith Leiber
- Parsed mussel shells, love the smooth onyx shell @ Wine Bar across from Prospect Park. I had me some Prosecco and also some cheese & olives, love the decadence
- Woodland Restaurant in Park Slope, pic from back of restaurant, chilled out with my brother, the b.f., and some lovely ladies, enjoyed some more Prosecco, a bitter green salad, and some yummy oysters, turns out the oysters and steak fries with sea salt and an anchovie mayo were dayum good. First off I don’t do mayo too tough on fries and I don’t do anchovies at all, this sauce was mild flavored and not as heavy as mayo, good shit!
- Remants of bitter green salad from Woodland and some ironic piece of tortilla which would have been far more pleasant had it been bread. In all fairness this was not a tortilla chip but it had no body and I wasn’t interested. Drinks were good though.
Saturday day to night
- 3 nature pictures are all in Prospect Park down the street from my brother’s spot, took his pooch for a walk and perused the farmer’s market. Like an idiot I brought no money and therefore missed out on some good stuff. Since we ate out so much it would have been a waste but it was nice to pretend as if I might whip up something good
- Birthday dinner for the b.f. whose name is acutally Courtney but whose semi-privacy I would like to protect, he doesn’t tend to put all his biz on the internet, that being said, his birthday was celebrated per his request over some fine Korean cuisine. We headed to Korea town to Miss Korea BBQ, it was an orgasm for the tongue, the meat melted in my mouth and flavors I couldn’t even try to name lit up my mouth like the dayum fireworks from the 4th of July. We had a bumpy start, a little favoritism when it came to seating but all was forgiven when I sat down and went to town on this amazing fare. Check it out: http://www.misskoreabbq.com/best_korean_bbq_restaurant_nyc/
- Brunch Detritus: met up with my girl nowmee and had some amazing brunch in Ditmas Park at OxCart Tavern http://www.oxcarttavern.com/aboutus.html. The biscuits were huge and tastee and their ‘stuffed’ pancake was more like a huge hollowed out crepe. I was so dayum happy over breakfast, I even ordered a cool summer cucumber basil concoction that was not overly sweet and had just the right amount of vodka to get me a little starry-eyed while feeling refreshed
- Throwback pics from Sarah Lawrence days. I was clearly under the influence of alcohol or perhaps some cheeba but look at my gal pal Rachel and I in front of the new dorms on what could have been bacchanalia. Btw, that dress I’m wearing that I loved so much, got passed around by all of us girls big time. I wish I knew its origins.
- Heading out of Brooklyn by car on the BQE (brooklyn queens expressway), no Holland Tunnel traffic jam for me heading out of the city
- Sunroof pic of the Verrazano Bridge (I think)
Hope you enjoyed my week in pictures.
Above: My hood this morning on the way to coffee; it was so quiet, doesn’t it look empty?
Sooooo, you may have noticed I clean skipped over day 2 of vacay and launched into day 3, but I’ve been taught when you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all…that being said, I don’t always adhere to that rule but in this case I will. On to the next one, which takes us to today-day 3!
Today I woke up and immediately started my work-out to get my mind right; turns out excercise is theraputic and so my day began. I decided to follow-up all those handy-dandy strength excercises by a walk through my hood. Upon hitting the pavement I drank in the resounding quiet that blanketed the area. I love this about Baltimore and wonder if other cities feel the same way; Baltimore becomes a ghost town whenever there’s a holiday: no traffic, few pedestrians, no police sirens…at least not until nightfall. I made my way to the local coffee shop Milk & Honey and sat in the air conditioning people-watching, drinking a large cup of coffee, and starting a new book Kasher in the Rye…as you may know I’m into memoirs right now and after reading only one chapter this one promises not to disappoint, dude compares his book to of course, Catcher in the Rye and Basketball Diaries. After drinking most of my coffee I walked back home; took a shower; packed up my laundry and nail kit-it’s a recession, I’d prefer a pedicure but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do- and made my out of the city to post up at my sister’s and take care of everything. I got to hang out with my niece who read me one of her books The Fully Belly Bowl and simultaneously take care of my pre-vacay errands. Now I’m at Mom’s getting ready to eat a burger and enjoy the fam. Happy Independance Day to those who care; to those who don’t, Happy Day off Work Although It’s In the Middle of the Week and Requires Use of Vacation Days Thursday & Friday to Actually Let Loose & Have Fun Today
*In my mind, I’m sitting on this California Beach; in reality I’m in Baltimore.
So I’ve totally been incognegro of late because I’ve been walking the tightrope that is my work life and new post-Memorial day work-out life which previously was null and void. My writing life kinda came to a stand-still for a week which isn’t cool. So today I decided to re-enter my blog by telling you the mundane activities that made up my first day of a week-long break from the jobbie. Here goes:
- Sunday night I stayed up until 2 am watching tv, starting with the first episode of the final season ofWeeds, which I have to say impressed me more than the last 2 seasons in one episode and that includes the opening credits. That crazy-ass Nancy Botwin and her clan are back at it…I absolutely do not want to share anything here in case anyone who cares hasn’t seen it yet. Per usual Uncle Andy has the best lines and perfect delivery. I followed Weeds with Aaron Sorkin’s newest show Newsroomon HBO, Jeff Bridges is so dayum talented and finally I cringed through an entire episode of Bill Maher’s show which, although cringe-worthy, was a way more refreshing way to hear current events discussed. At 2a.m. I laid down and read a few pages of Carole Radziwill’s memoir, ‘What Remains’ and if you were wondering, yes my interest was brought on by her being cast as one of the new Real Housewives of New York. I love how my fondness for some reality tv has actually yielded some intellectual pursuits.
- Enter Monday morning. Yep it almost passed me by before I got up without having to peel my eyes open to the sound of the alarm clock. The time was 11:32; I was a happy camper.
- I made breakfast at noon: egg and potatoe hash with bacon a waffle and 2 cups of coffee. I ate my brunch while continuing to read afore-mentioned book which is breath-taking by the way. As a soon-to-be MFA student I’m trying to fit in as much FUN reading as I can to get ideas of different styles. I have my own but you can always learn from others…just no copying!
- On to chores or rather chore. Today I decided to switch out my winter clothes and store them while simultaneously pulling out my summer clothes and neatly placing them in my drawers. The upside? My drawers aren’t disorganized for now AND I found 2 things I’ve been looking for over the past few weeks: my black pair of yoga pants and my tan (or as I like to call it baby-doll leg colored) compression stocking for Puffy. Editorial Note: Puffy is what I call my lower left leg as it is prone to swelling from a baseball injury from when I was child, so now I’m a compression stocking lifer. Puffy may be mentioned in future blogs from time to time so it’s important to know its origins.
- Next feeling footloose and fancy-free I check the time, it’s 4pm and I haven’t been to work all day!!!!!! Still so happy, that above chore would be a painful chore if done on a weekend prior to having to go back to the jobbie. So back to it’s 4pm and I decide I need a pre-gym snack. I have some cottage cheese (boring but protein aka energy) and then I end up having a few wholegrain tortilla chips and some homemade salsa which is slamming. I’m ready for the gym.
- Hit the gym before I have to meet the fitness coach for a small group session. Am going hard on the row machine working up a sweat, hoping my form is on-point when I spot coach and my team and get going on that work-out
- Boy is it grueling. He believes in torture in the guise of lunges, squats, planks, side-planks, and for me the always dreaded push-ups…apparently my body weight traumatizes my arms and there’s always a little shaking going on as I try to hoist my body up and keep good form at the same time. After this coach makes me and another group member race eachother on the rowing machine; she wins.
- I call my little sister as I always do after the gym since she’s the one who regularly works out in the Jefferson Clan. She cheers me on, we catch up on the weekend and I hit the shower at home.
- I’m now about to make one of the turkey burgers I prepped before I left home. As I’m writing this I realize I don’t have a bun so guess I’ll end up eating it by its lonesome. No worries I got a pickle and some smoked out Stubbs BBQ sauce. I’ll eat up my little bit of squash sautee and call it a day.
- On my agenda for this evening? Real Housewives of NJ on DVR. I do believe RHWNY or Love & Hip Hop Atlanta will also be on tonight so I’m going to happily sit here and take it all in with no shame. Quick Note: I really love to hate Love & Hip Hop Atlanta, it seems sooooo scripted like beyond the usual ‘reality’ show scripting. It’s painful but I want to be part of the conversation so I refuse to not watch this…now Single Girls on the other hand…just can’t do it!
I have no idea what’s on tomorrow’s agenda, but I’ll be sure to share.
Oh my goodness, if my girl J.G. hadn’t of reached out to me reminding me today was Juneteenth, this oh so important holiday would have passed by without any fanfare from me. For the uninitiated Juneteenth is the celebration of the true end to slavery. Meaning, back in 1863 Abraham Lincoln wasn’t hunting vampires (as far as we know) he actually enacted the Emancipation Proclamation freeing slaves in America, however there was one little problem, as usual Texas thought it was above the law. I say as usual because I’ve visited Texas and had a funky good time but it was clear that the state of Texas operates differently from everyone else…I mean seriously drive-thru daiquiri spots? I experienced that, the irony, it was situated under a huge ‘don’t drink and drive’ billboard, but I digress. So good ol’ Texans felt like, ‘That cat Abraham Lincoln has it all wrong, let’s go ahead and pretend like the post-man never rode through here and told us we had to free our slaves.’ Fast forward to June 19th 1865, the date Texans finally decided to enlighten their slaves that they were free to pack their goods and head for the woods. I’m guessing some of them thought, ‘Sooooo the president announced I was free, but I’m just finding out two years later!?!’ I’m wondering which one of the crew decided to ‘take one for the team’ and got killed trying to kill massa for the late message; you know there was somebody who couldn’t mask their anger. There were probably some folks who shrugged their shoulders and signed on for a life of share cropping aka nouveau slavery, either way Juneteenth has become an ‘unofficial’, meaning not on any government calendars, holiday for black folks to celebrate the day the Emancipation Proclamation was finally enacted across the entire US.
I might sound like a minor authority, but let’s be real, I only just heard about Juneteenth about nine years ago at a public library function; I had no idea this holiday even existed. I never celebrate it officially, but I have a little crew (J.G. and CMay) that help me remember my heritage and take time out of their day to send a shout-out in commemoration of those folks who worked some overtime hours like salaried employees meaning more hours no pay. We celebrate the date by talking about how we wish somebody would have told us that we had been free for two years, acting like we would pull a Nat Turner and start a revolution. We regale each other with stories about what we would have done, crack jokes and reflect on the real disrespect of it all. Somewhere through the years we stumbled across the above picture around Juneteenth about 3 or 4 years ago and felt it symbolized the true character and spirit of our ancestors. Don’t ask me why, the picture was so gangsta to us, it came to mean something important to us and every year it reappears as a reminder that our ancestors were ‘rodeo-strong’ so we will carry that torch forth and purposefully ride that bitch called life until the wheels fall off!