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Monday, December 24, 2012

What the NRA Should Have Said







I am an idealist. I believe that people typically have the best of intentions. Moreover, I usually fail to follow Oprah’s oft quoted advice that has almost become cliché: “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” I'm a second chancer.

So when the NRA announced that they were delivering a press conference, breaking their weeklong silence, I saw a glass half full. I expected that twenty six coffins, particularly, the  twenty smaller ones, had inspired an epiphany. 

I should have listened to Oprah. 

The NRA’s call for armed officials in every school is simply shoddy arithmetic. Guns plus more guns doesn’t equal peace; furthermore, several teachers’ associations have expressed their opposition to the NRA's proposition. (You can read the entire transcript here.)

Regardless of how you feel about gun control, it’s important to acknowledge that the NRA's EVP, Wayne Lapierre, spoke words that can be described as nothing short of an insensitive train wreck, as PR experts everywhere have agreed. So while they alluded to some of the  points below, they should have driven them home and tossed the rest. 

What they should have said:

  • Our prayers and thoughts are with those affected by individuals who used weapons for evil versus good.
  • We realize that the violence in America is a serious problem that while complex, must be grappled with. This means that we have to work harder to ensure that the weapons we so love, are used exclusively for sport, leisure, and protection.
  • Based on our organization’s breadth of knowledge in relation to gun policy, we humbly offer our voice to be included among the task force led by Vice President Joe Biden to help create solutions that protect American citizens. 
  • This is not a time for stubbornness, anger, thoughtless action, or worse, inaction. It’s a time for reflection, serious thought, and a keen plan of action. We are prepared to step up to the plate. God bless Newtown, Aurora, Chicago, Oak Creek, Tucson, Portland, and the countless other cities who have been shaken by senseless gun violence. We’re on your side. 

But they didn’t.

Now I know better. I’m still optimistic. I just know that I should have believed the NRA when they first revealed who they were.

There is at least one thing I’m grateful for. The NRA is comfortable with being upfront about their ideas, no matter how ill received and horrendous those ideas may be. 

More Reading: 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Becoming Olivia Pope is Easy | A True Story about Infidelity


Though I prefer premium channel dramas like The Wire and Newsroom, it seemed everyone I knew was enraptured by the ABC series, Scandal, so I finally gave in and watched. Not bad. Possibly the most fascinating plot thread is the on again/off again salacious affair between the President of the United States (Fitz) and Olivia, the principal of the Pope and Associates PR firm.

I recently discussed the fictional affair with my cousin -who is happily married- and to my surprise, she declared that she was “Team Olivia and Fitz” because they were made for each other. When it comes to morality and ethics, most people think they have clear-cut lines. They will quickly attest that murder is wrong, but cheer for a gun-wielding Will Smith in his latest summer flick.  Some will say gay marriage is despicable, but “awwww” when Mitchell and Cameron of Modern Family make up after a silly fight. I’m sure if I conducted a poll, I’d learn that people believed cheaters were wicked, yucky individuals.

Until it was you.

A few days ago, I was catching up with a friend -let’s call her Melanie- and she casually asked me if I knew anything about a guy named Austin. I did. He’s smart, funny, handsome, charming, and genuinely someone most people would consider a “good guy.” Several months back, while in DC on business, Austin ran into Melanie and they really hit it off. They weren’t physically intimate; but they were up to the wee hours of the morning discussing the election, religion, Katt Williams, and everything else. Neither wanted the night to end, but he had an early flight back to Boston, so they reluctantly agreed to keep in touch. They developed a friendship in the way that twenty and thirty somethings do… via gchat, text and funny forwarded emails. There was always an underlying “What if” but neither pursued it. So imagine Melanie’s excitement when Austin called to tell her he’d be in town again for a conference and was hoping they could grab dinner. They met up. Again… the connection was there, and it was as if no time had passed since their last meeting. Half joking, half curious, Melanie said, “I don’t know how you manage to stay single Austin.” And that’s when he dropped the bomb, “Actually, as of two days ago, I’m not…” Allow me to take creative license here; I presume this is where Melanie calmly set down her wine glass and did her best to appear happy as she congratulated him.

At this point in our conversation, Melanie hesitated and I knew she had more to say. Something in me told me that I had to tell her a story, one I hadn’t told anyone else. So I did. And now, I’ll tell you.

Several years ago, while in college, I met a guy at a house party. The day after we met, we spent the next two weeks together, ordering take out, watching bad movies, taking in DC’s landmarks like tourists, and even a Wizards game. But the timing was horrible. He was graduating that spring and moving home to Atlanta. I still had more school to go. So we let it go. Over the years, we kept in contact, but it was minimal. We were in different cities, and one of us was always in a relationship. And then… I moved back to DC as a single woman, and he was there too, after recently being reassigned by his job. We were so excited to be in the same city and hang out again. But he didn’t come back to DC alone; he had a girlfriend. (Notice a recurring theme here).

I gushed that I really wanted to meet the woman who was making him happy. I thought it would help me to see him as a completely unavailable man. But every time the 3 of us planned to get together,  something would come up last minute in her schedule, and it was just us. So we’d go to dinner and talk like old friends or take in a movie. Eventually, I started to think that he was purposefully setting up times for the two of us to hang out, and to my mortified surprise… I was pleased. I liked him.  He was thoughtful, playful, affectionate, and a critical thinker. He consistently mused that he didn’t see how someone like myself was single. (Don’t they all say that?) We told each other corny jokes and created inside jokes so funny to us that our sides hurt. He grabbed my hand when we crossed the street. Our “hangout sessions” were starting to feel less and less platonic. I knew this was bad news. I knew that although we weren’t crossing any double lines, what we were doing was dangerous. One day as we weaved our way through Silver Spring to an indy theatre, an older woman stopped us on the street to tell us we were a “couple fit for Hollywood.” He gave me a once-over, turned back to the woman and said, “Ma’am I think I agree with you.” And my stomach flip-flopped. 

That night, as he walked me to my door and I fished out my keys, I looked up to offer the obligatory “Good seeing you, I hope to see [your girlfriend] soon.” But the words caught in my throat. He was looking at me intently and before I knew it, we’d kissed. I’d like to say I pushed him away. I’d like to say I was disgusted. I’d like to say I told him off and never spoke to him again. But none of those things are true. I kissed him back and it was one of the most beautiful/ugliest moments of my life. I loved it and I hated it. He apologized. And I did too. And then we kissed again. I managed to snap out of it and bustle inside, alone with my thoughts. For the next few hours, I vacillated between youthful glee, intense guilt, and everything in between. I even found myself thinking, “What we have is special... it’s unique… It’s impossible that he could feel as good with someone else as he does with me… right? Wonder if he’s thinking that right now. Could this work? I’m single, so… technically I’m not wrong right?”

It was this #anncoulterlogic that led me to decide that it was best for us to not be friends at all, because I didn’t trust either one of us to be responsible. After I shared my story with Melanie, she broke down and confessed that towards the end of Austin’s trip, under a haze of alcohol that they'd kissed and it was magical. When they were laughing, talking, and sharing, it was easy to forget the truth. It was easy to believe that what they had was real, genuine and right. But when the club lights come on and sobriety comes in, the truth is a bright glaring light to your hangover, reminding you that you’re a wicked and yucky person, as indicated by the hypothetical poll I took earlier.

So what did I tell Melanie? The same thing I told myself a few years ago. “Create a space between you two. Accept that while what you two may have is special, it’s not enough for him to leave his girlfriend; if it was, he would. When you find yourself reliving those special moments,  look up his Facebook profile and let the reality hurt you. Don’t send that text. Don’t make that call.”

The truth is, Melanie deserves better. She doesn’t deserve a piece of someone. Austin and his girlfriend deserve better. They deserve an honest commitment. And while Olivia and Fitz seem caught up in a whirlwind of passion, they deserve better than stolen time, whispered words, and weighty secrets.

It’s easy to become Olivia Pope. But it’s not easy to live as Olivia Pope without making exorbitant sacrifices.

**
The floor is yours. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

4 Things Women Pretend to Love for Guys' Sake

I’m 100% sure that someone who doesn’t take the time to read all the qualifiers I’ve made to the following generalizations will accuse me of being sexist or something else uncomely.  The Internet has given everyone, even the misinformed, a voice. Actually… especially the misinformed. But I’ll take my chances anyway.

A few weeks ago, Fox News trotted out an article so laughable that there was a waiting line of pundits, comedians, and bloggers ready to skewer it. Suzanne Venker, the author of soon to be published How to Choose A Husband, posited that “women aren’t women anymore” and that if women would just “surrender to their nature – their femininity – and let men surrender to theirs”, then “marriageable men will come out of the woodwork.”

Let the record reflect; I think that article is part hogwash, part nonsense, part self-hate, and part desperation for attention. It’s all foolishness. I do however think that some women adopt certain hobbies that they may not otherwise take part in, just for the sake of attracting men (sometimes failing horribly). Again, I said SOME women, but enough women do it for me to take notice and find it amusing.  

Here’s my top 4:

1. Sports. Obviously some women really do like sports. They play fantasy football and can spit all kinds of stats on their favorite players/teams. (Personally, I find it mind boggling that people will watch SportsCenter 723 times in one day when it’s a loop of the same thing OVER and OVER again. Plus… it’s usually a highlight reel of a game that you probably already watched. But I digress…)

But I’ve seen some women who could care less become raving, foaming-at-the-mouth Cowboys fans, all because a potential boo was in the room with a star on his chest. The Clark Kent to Super(Sports)Woman is the new hotness. Sadly, it’s usually transparent how fake their fanhood is when a woman yells “And he’s safe!! That touchdown means we’re going to the World Seeeerrriiiieeeeess!!! Woo hoo! I love you Kobe!”

2. Video Games. When I was in college, one of my roommates learned how to play Madden. She made it exceedingly clear that she was learning solely so she could flirtatiously trash talk someone into playing in our small dorm room. Then again, she’s happily married with a kid so maybe she was onto something. 

3. Strip Clubs. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems like all of a sudden, the strip club is no longer a place exclusively for gentlemen to pick up the occasional venereal disease. One of my girlfriends seemed surprised recently when I told her I’d never been to a strip club.  She very generously offered to take me to a strip club to right this wrong. I politely declined. I’m pretty sure that although they make an astounding amount of money at a faster rate than I ever have, I’d feel compelled to talk the ladies off the pole. 

4. Misogynistic Hip-Hop. Years ago, Chris Rock infamously yelled (when is he NOT yelling??), “If the beat is right, she will dance all night!” As stated in previous posts, I have been known to dance to troubling lyrics that I’d rather not repeat. But even I have to draw a line in the sand somewhere and it’s probably around 2Chainz. Sure fellas, I get that “all you want for your birthday is a big booty hoe” but …. Why are the ladies singing along with you? Is a universal love for big booty hoes attractive?

I don’t know. I’m not a guy. But I think at some point, we should acknowledge that it’s ok to prefer Scandal over Sportcenter, Cranium over Call of Duty, and Timberlake over Two Chainz. (Seriously, when is JT gonna drop an album... we need it!)

What have I missed from this list? Ladies, are you willing to admit doing these things to earn cool points with the fellas? Or do you genuinely like skrip clubs? Yes, I meant to say skrip. Fellas, do you like it when a girl likes this stuff?

***
DC Readers: Tomorrow night is Karaoke 4 A Cause, my FAVORITE holiday party! Bring a toy valued at $20 (or $20) and join the party! Celebrate, sing, give. :) 

All proceeds benefit the Southeast White House. More info at www.karaoke4acause.com  




Monday, October 15, 2012

The Myth of "I Like You Prettiest Without Makeup"


The other day, one of my friend’s Facebook status proclaimed: “I appreciate a girl as real as her hair.” As a weaveless woman, my reflex was to toot my own horn. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the notion that someone’s “realness” has a correlation to whether her hair was homegrown or not was ridiculous.

My friend’s Facebook status is part of this pseudo-enlightened view that has become cool and hip in the past several years. A few variations of this theory you can expect to hear are:

 “I like girls natural… the less makeup, the better.”
“How can you trust a girl with fake nails, fake hair, fake boobs, etc?”
“Sweat pants, hair tied, chillin’ with no make-up on; that’s when you’re the prettiest, I hope that you don’t take it wrong.” Philosopher Aubrey “Drake” Graham

That’s cute. Here’s the thing. I’m not buying it. Before you tell me, “How dare you tell me what men like, ain’t you a woman? Ya’ll always think you know what men want…” and blah blah blah, hear me out.

I’m not saying men are solely attracted to women with Nicki-Minaj inspired makeup, but I’m not buying the argument that men are most attracted to women who haven’t made any type of investments in her appearance. Most women do quite a bit to adjust what you may think is natural.  Eyebrows are plucked, waxed or threaded. Legs and armpits are shaved. Some women even bedazzle their hoo-ha. Our bodies smell faintly of lotion, our faces are washed with Proactiv, and our heels are scrubbed with pumice stones.  I could write a separate blog post about the deep conditioning, co-washing, trimming, coloring, curling then straightening, voluminizing then smoothing, twisting, and teasing we do to our hair to achieve something appropriate for both the workplace and the happy hour afterwards.

Interestingly enough, doing all of these things to enhance our appearance isn’t considered fake. It’s considered by most to be basic hygiene! Never mind that failing to shave your legs doesn’t increase the incidence of type II diabetes. Ashiness doesn’t lead to asthma, but God forbid you have a gray elbow. Massive manipulation of your own hair is perfectly ok, but if a woman adds extensions so that she can protect her hair from heat damage or she extends her nails by a couple centimeters then not only is her look fake, she is a woman who can’t be trusted! She might just possibly be a liar who goes out of her way to present a false persona so that men will fall into her icky trap. The true sign of an evil woman, to hear some men tell it, is an acrylic French manicure.

Let me tell you what I think men are REALLY asking for. Men want a woman who LOOKS like she’s not trying. They want a woman whose cheeks just happen to have a bit of glow, with lips that naturally produce a sweet tasting liquid that makes them shine, and women whose hair on their head grows like a unstoppable weed, while the hair on the rest of their body appears to have endured chemotherapy.

Here’s the thing; I don’t think it’s completely men’s fault. Photoshop, professional airbrushing, and most recently Instagram, have provided men with endless streams of false reality. Men drool over Zoe Saldana, Republican Stacey Dash, Kerry Washington, Halle Berry, and Gabrielle Union not realizing that they’re drooling over a piece of art, not an actual person. 

There’s nothing wrong with having preferences. If you like women without weave, that’s cool. If you prefer women who keep makeup to a bare minimum, that’s cool too. Honestly, all the fake stuff is really expensive; we’d probably appreciate a relief from it all. But don’t pretend that you don’t appreciate any of the 20th and 21st century’s tools to tweak, remove, add, and enhance women’s natural beauty. That would be really fake of you. *Wink*


 P.S. I shared this post with a a guy friend  to ensure I wasn't completely off base, and he said that a better post would be about how society defines beauty and why we think plump lips or youthful skin is attractive. But I'm employed and in school and I don't have time to learn all that, much less teach it. One of you should write it!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Overrated Things in the Black Community

In order to be in good standing with our brethren, us Black Americans have a lot of rules. Not only am I required to memorize the lyrics to Juicy, I have to master Spades, and learn an ever growing list of words specifically related to the care of natural hair. To top it all off, there are some things I’m supposed to LOVE along with the rest of the Blacks. Welp. I have failed at all of the above. Unfortunately, I’m incapable of completely throwing logic out the window to fit in with my alleged ethnicity’s idea of what’s amazing.  Below are a few things that as a member of the Black race I am supposed to love, but that I deem overrated:



Awkward Black Girl – The web series premiered in February 2011 and has quickly become a cult classic among Black women. To me, the line between the ratchet music spoofed in the show and the character’s actions and dialogue is certainly blurring. Latching on to ABG because “we all we got” is an insufficient reason for me to tune in. The most recent episode featured use of the ABG invention “Mexinigga.”  Funny doesn’t have to take cheap shots or fall on clichéd tools of comedy. In fact, it’s not funny; it’s just tired, overdone, and yawn-inducing.
Tip: Why not support a web series that you can be proud of AND that will make you laugh? Check out info on Very Smart Brothas pilot: The TV Series
Editor's Note: My issue with ABG stems from the fact that I KNOW Issa Rae and Tracy Oliver (the writers) are smart folks who are making what I consider to be easy, time-honored choices versus risky, creative decisions with their work. I initially loved the show. I've seen every single episode and continue to watch in hopes that it will get better. I think as Issa Rae's popularity and following have increased, so has her work load. I actually watched her new series, Roomie | Lovers | Friends and I've noted the growth. I just want her to live up to the accolades that people have given her. I wish her the best and I'm certainly thrilled to hear that she's got something in the works with ABC. We need more filmmakers. Just do us proud; we deserve it! This note has been sponsored by @Hautemommie and @MrAudacity

The Boondocks - If you read the comic strip, then you know why this is a disappointment. The comic strip was a scathing but keen criticism of everything under the sun, with a focus on social issues. The television show was not. 
Tip: Instead, you should watch The Mindy Project, a new show on Fox, which is basically Awkward Indian Girl. Except it’s funny.





Waffle House – People leave the South and spread this myth that Waffle House is the pinnacle of good breakfast. They fail to mention that the real reason people go to Waffle House is:
     1. It’s usually the only place open at the time most folks stumble in.
     2. It’s super cheap.
Here are the facts:
     1. It's dirty.
     2. The servers are typically surly.
     3. The waffles are nothing to tweet about. They're good. But not special. 
Tip: Instead, consider patronizing the local mom and pop diner. In most major cities, there’s at least one that stays open late. You’ll support a small business, become a regular, and probably score free drinks.

Roscoe’s – People like Roscoe’s because you only find them in Southern California. They're the hometown favorite. That’s it. The low supply of restaurants with the Roscoe’s logo at the door creates a high demand elsewhere. The chicken is good. The waffles are good. None of it is life-changing. Probably the most hilarious thing about Roscoe’s is if you offer up criticism of the chain, LA natives will say “Well which one did you go to? Mmmhmm, shoulda went to the other one… Now what did you order?.... tsk tsk. Shoulda got the number 9.” How good is a chain if it’s only good if you go to ONE location and order that ONE specific thing? I call shenanigans.
Want good chicken? If you’re in LA, go to Honey’s Kettle Fried Chicken. Thank me later.





Anita Baker -  Her voice reminds me of the mom from Gullah Gullah Island. I enjoy Anita’s hits, particularly Sweet Love which is an excellent karaoke choice. I just find the deification by her rabid fans a bit overwrought. And her hair looks like John Mayer’s. It makes me uncomfortable.
Tip: Check out the BEST COVER OF I WANT YOU BACK that I've ever heard. In life. 

Sade - Whenever I hear Sade's music, I find myself comparing suicide methods. Once, I got as far as writing the note for my friends and family, complete with the song I wanted to play at my funeral, until my then roommate came in and turned on some Carrie Underwood. 

Tip: Wanna hear something different? Something to get your heart rate going? Check out my girl Solange's new video. (And by my girl, I mean.... an individual who I've never met, but whose records I have purchased.)

Welp. Now that I have probably single-handedly pissed off probably 90% of my readers, I’d like to hear your thoughts. Can you think of anything else that’s highly overrated in the Black community? Enlighten us!

Monday, October 1, 2012

5 Most Annoying Groups During Election Season



One thing liberals and conservatives can agree on is that we're entirely over this election season. I'm pretty sure I saw a Romney hologram in my shower. Talk about denying a woman the right to choose! Geez. In addition to being tired of hearing "I'm Barack Obama and I approved this message," I've got 5 other people I don't want to hear from during the election season. Here goes:


5. Negative Nancys. These are people who don’t have a pro opinion; they are just anti something. The first time I noticed this was in 2004 during the Kerry/Bush election. Many folks (mostly liberals but arguably the majority) were so disgusted with then President Bush they were basically willing to take anyone. This time around, it seems the rallying cry of conservatives, is “Get that Communist/Muslim/Fascist Outta There!” I always question the validity of passion that stands against something instead of FOR something. Why say “I hate this and that! And let’s get rid of that! And he sucks and she sucks too!” Why not say, “I support this! I like that! This is a good idea! Let’s try some of this!”
Pro Tip: Get a Pinterest account. I don't have one, but it's full of examples of people listing things that they actually DO like! 

4. One Issue Voters. No one with a working brain completely agrees with a politician on every single issue. There are pro-lifers who support gun control and supporters of capital punishment who also support welfare programs. A keen voter does an elegant balance of ALL the issues and decides from there. 
Pro Tip: Create a Pro/Con List. 

3. "My Preferences/Personal Choices Should Be Everyone's!" This may seem like a pet peeve only espoused by liberals, but ideologically speaking, it should resonate with conservatives and small government advocates too. If you want government to be small, then don’t suggest more laws that limit other people’s freedoms. For example, if YOU think that women shouldn’t be seen in public unless they’re wearing a burka, that’s cool. The women in YOUR household will wear burkas. But it’s silly to create laws based on your personal religious beliefs and/or preferences.
Note: Do not be the idiot that makes this about a slippery slope and says something like “Soon murderers will want the freedom to kill people; should we give them that??” Obviously I’m referring to rights and freedoms that don’t infringe upon others’ access to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Loser.
Pro Tip: Read the Constitution and pay close attention to the Bill of Rights

2. Undecided Voters. When people say they are undecided, this is actually a desperate cry for attention. We are not deciding between M&Ms with peanuts or M&Ms without. Don’t say you’re waiting on the debates. The purpose of the debates are really just to serve as televised pep rallies.  You don’t walk away from the debates with a new home team; nothing they say will truly change your belief system. Either you think we should balance the budget with Bush era tax cuts or Clinton era tax rates. Either you think we should provide preventative healthcare for the uninsured or they should visit the emergency room, with a bonus ride via an ambulance. You know what the deal is! Pick already!
Exception: The only exception to this rule is people considering a third party candidate like Jill Stein or Gary Johnson. You may strongly believe in your candidate, but wonder about the value in voting for someone that has almost zero chance of being elected in this country’s current two-party system. I get that. It’s a tough call.
Pro Tip: (If you legitimately are like “I don’t know what to do with my hands!” take the quiz at isidewith.com) 


1. Non Voters. Your complacency is unpatriotic and somewhat nauseating. Whether you choose to vote or not, your presence on the planet still impacts your community, even if it’s just a census count. Don’t allow decisions that could help or hurt yourself, your neighbors and your fellow citizens be made for you. It’s… so not sexy.
Pro Tip: If you need help figuring out where, when, and how to vote, visit gottavote.com 

Your turn to sound off. Let me hear it! :) 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Choosing Your Boo Over Your Friends or a Career - a Bad Idea?


Recently, I was talking to a friend who told me about her plans to attend law school soon. Of COURSE, I suggested that she apply to USC here in Los Angeles. To paraphrase her response, she said, “I know it sounds bad, but I want to stay in DC, close to my boyfriend.” Even after I assured her that there was nothing wrong with that, she continued to explain her decision, as if anticipating pushback. People, particularly women, are often told from the time they can pick up a Ken Barbie to:

“Never make important decisions based on a man.”

A similar mantra taught to both men and women is:

“Never choose your man/woman over your friend. Relationships come and go; friends are for life.”

It sounds good. And it’s relatively true; for most people, our strongest friendships tend to be more static than our romantic relationships, particularly when we’re younger and unmarried. But lately, I’ve come to question these alleged nuggets of “wisdom.” And here’s why:

1. As we get older, it becomes more practical to consider our ambitions and long-term goals comprehensively versus in a linear fashion. This means that instead of tossing out a relationship for a promotion overseas, or choosing your long time homegirl over your potential life partner, consider how each decision fits into your overall plan for your life.

Let’s consider Rachel and Walter, a hypothetical case study. Rachel and Walter have been seriously dating for 2 years. Rachel is 28 and Walter is 32 and while they certainly agree that they eventually want to have a family and settle down, they haven’t made a formal commitment to each other just yet. Rachel is offered a promotion within her company that would require her to move across the country. It isn’t necessarily a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and there will be probably be other promotion opportunities in the area, but it is a great one and it’s significantly closer to her family. Rachel and Walter both have had negative experiences with long-distance relationships and aren't interested in going down that road. I believe the decision to take a new career with relocation should be based on a variety of things including the proximity to her family, the impact of the salary/new role in her quality of life. Furthermore, I would argue that Rachel should also consider her desire to have a family. She should consider if she wants to continue developing a relationship with Walter that has promise to lead to the family they both want. It’s a fair consideration and she shouldn’t be judged harshly for including her plans with him in her decision.

Interestingly enough, a hard lesson many Type A’s and voracious planners grudgingly learn is: our lives don’t proceed steadily along in a straight line, like moving walkways in an airport. Sure, there are outliers. Beyoncé was able to achieve immense success, then love, and then the adorable Blue Ivy. Michelle Obama even did what many of us aspire to do; she completed her extensive education, landed a great job, and then found love as well, culminating with a not too shabby title as First Lady of the United States. While Beyoncé and Michelle are certainly admirable, for most people, life doesn’t occur in a Point A, then B, then C fashion. Many of us complete our education in parts, in between jobs and career changes, and many of us find love all throughout the process; the beginning, the middle, or the end. There’s nothing wrong with that. Instead of trying to create a divine order in which you focus primarily on one goal at a time, consider how each of the pieces can fit together. My friend sheepishly crossed schools in California off her list so she could be close to the man who makes her smile in Washington, DC. Is Georgetown such a bad alternative to USC? I don’t think so. 

2. When you are in a committed relationship with a sane person who legitimately has your best interest at heart, that person will only ask you to choose if he or she has good reason. One of my good friends used to lament that whenever her boyfriend was with one of his close female friends, he tended to drink more, smoke weed, and stay out later. When he’d stumble home, it wasn’t his homegirl that had to deal with his sour breath, the illegal army green flakes on his jacket, and the lingering hangover; it was his girlfriend. When she told him that she’d had enough and that he’d need to regulate his behavior around said homegirl or just not hang with her at all, her boyfriend blew up at her for making her “choose.” I won’t tell you what happened in the end, but to me, it seems as though that was good reason.

The caveat is that of course, there are people out there who are jealous, suspicious, and irrational. They don’t like you spending time with your friends; they don’t like that something or someone else is making you happy. These zany folks don’t represent everyone and should be avoided anyway. Your true friends know that your household is peaceful when you alternate the Thursday night pick-up basketball games with date night every other week. They understand.

In conclusion, I’m not suggesting that a relationship should take precedence over every other consideration in your life. I do however, think it is an important consideration and that there is absolutely nothing wrong in putting it on equal bearing, and in many cases, higher bearing than other considerations. In the end, it’s YOUR life. You decide what matters to you most, and if being close to your girlfriend is more important than attending a school miles away, then act on that! It's perfectly ok. 

**
Thoughts? Have you ever felt compelled to choose between a career or a significant other? Have your friends ever accused you of unfairly choosing the significant other over them? Do you think these old adages have more value than I’m giving them credit for? Let me know!

Friday, August 3, 2012

What is Traditional Marriage?

A few months ago I was kicking it with my friend and her mom called. She grabbed the phone and started yapping, then she said, "OK go ahead and put Dad on before you hang up."  I felt an unidentifiable pang in my chest and later came to realize what it was. Envy. Her parents are married, live in the same house, and she can handle her parental duties in one phone call. Sadly, most of my peers and I cannot say the same.

My friends are for the most part, well-adjusted, intelligent adults and while they come from a variety of ethnic and economic backgrounds, most come from "mixed" families. For many, their parents were married and some portion of their childhood was colored by their parents' divorce. For some, they can't even remember their parents ever being together.  In 2012, this is the reality of the family unit in America. The idea of a man and woman marrying, having children and living happily ever after often seems to be more fantasy than reality

This shifting cultural norm is what I was thinking about when a few months ago, I heard an advocate for "traditional marriage" on NPR state that President Obama was attempting to "overturn 3000 years of recorded history by supporting same-sex marriage." I thought it was quite a statement, considering that I don't even think we have the same traditions we had 40 years ago as it pertains to marriage. With all the recent controversy surrounding Chic-Fil-A's CEO Dan Cathy's vocal, moral and financial support of traditional marriage, I wonder as a Christian, what it means to support traditional marriage.

Advocates for same sex marriage call it the equal marriage debate or a human rights and civil rights issue. Opponents to marriage rights for gays consider it a "traditional marriage" debate. These word choices are not small nuances to be ignored; they define the argument and help frame people's opinion on the issue. This post is not meant to illustrate why marriage between two men or two women is right or wrong; it's simply meant to point out the problem of the blanket term "traditional marriage."

What is Tradition?
the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice; something that is handed down; a long-established or inherited way of thinking or acting; a continuing pattern of culture beliefs or practices. a customary or characteristic method or manner. - Dictionary.com

So knowing that, what is traditional marriage?

The majority of the American crowd speaking out against same sex marriage happens to also be Christian, so I presume they are referring to Christian traditions. What makes something a Christian tradition? Something found throughout the Bible? Consider this:

These are not men that play minority roles in the Christian faith; Christ was a direct descendant of Abraham, David & Solomon. They are revered in Christianity, Judaism, and other religious faiths. If anyone represents Christian tradition, it is certainly these men.

  • Teenage girls married adult men in the Bible. It was common practice around Jesus' time and certainly before, for pre-adolescent girls around 9 to be betrothed to a man and to be married around 12 to 14 years old. The virgin Mary was thought to be around 12 to 14 years old when she married a very adult Joseph. Mary is revered by Christian women, particularly in the Catholic faith as the ultimate example of motherhood.
Some folks base their argument for traditional marriage in American history. In other words, "Marriage between one man and one woman is an American value." Considering America's youth -we're only 236 years old- I struggle to really think American traditions can trump any religious traditions, but I'll allow it for the sake of this argument. I won't outline all the varying policies, laws, and practices in America that were considered "tradition" that have since been abolished, (cough 3/5 a citizen cough) but as it relates to marriage, we'd have to include the following values as well:

  • Banning of Interracial Marriages. Anti-miscegenation laws or laws banning people of different races from marrying each other have been around for the majority of America's existence. They weren't struck down by the Supreme Court until 1967
  • Wives as Property. American wives were considered culturally and in many ways, legally, their husband's property. When America and her values were born, wives had to cede all of their property to their husbands upon marriage. In many cases, they had to secure written permission from their husbands to handle any major financial or business transactions. 

It seems that the definition of Christian or American traditional marriage is a transient one consistent with a society's current cultural traditions. There's no denying that same sex marriages would represent a shift in how marriage has been legally practiced. While homosexuality is certainly not a novel concept or new phenomenon, same sex marriage is still opposed by 44% of Americans

And as always, I support the freedom of speech and the right to have a word or three. I believe Dan Cathy and others on both sides of this debate certainly have the right to voice their opinions and make donations as they see fit. I simply have difficulty with the idea that the appropriate phrase is traditional marriage. Tradition it seems is in the eye of the beholder. 

What are your thoughts? Is heterosexual marriage appropriately called traditional marriage? Is tradition immovable or can it change over time?

The floor is yours.

P.S. There's one more group of folks I envy: Folks who can still enjoy Chic-Fil-A's yummy chicken nuggets and lemonade. It just doesn't sit right in my stomach anymore. 


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Stick to Your Guns or Stand by Your Friends?




On Monday night, I was out with friends when my pal Outlaw told me about another person there who'd made some less than flattering comments about him. Here's the thing: Outlaw is my friend. This random guy running his mouth is not. So from there I went on to joke about the stranger, making assessments about his overall character and so forth. Then Outlaw laughed and said, "We can't really speculate on who he is based on this one comment he made about me. You're just saying all that stuff because you're my friend."

I replied, "Of course I am, duh! That's what friends do."

And I mean it. I believe that's what friends are for; to love you unconditionally and support you when you need it. When your friend gets cheated on and calls you, your job is to pick their side and provide comfort. Now, I'd be remiss not to acknowledge that pesky thing called accountability. When you're wrong, your friends should tell you and hold you accountable. But when you're in a fight --particularly physical ones--you expect your friends to jump in and sort out the details later. Right?

Well, it seems the mayor of Newark, New Jersey Cory Booker was in a bit of a quandary. In case you haven't heard of him, Mayor Booker is a progressive young mayor who enjoys immense popularity in his hometown and across the country. Many believe he has the potential to hold an even higher position; maybe even president! While he's managed to appease liberals and conservatives alike in his home city, he primarily moves rank and file with the President and has been an outspoken and helpful backer of the Obama administration. When the President voiced his support of same sex marriage, Cory Booker took his to Twitter feed (as he often does) to applaud and agree. One could say that Mayor Booker and President Obama are pretty chummy. 

Until Mr. Booker was interviewed on Meet the Press last week. Mayor Booker called the Obama campaign's attacks on Mitt Romney's private equity firm, Bain Capital, "ridiculous" and "nauseating". When I saw Mayor Booker's comments flicker across my timeline, I thought that I was surely misreading it. I mean, it's one thing for lil ol me to disagree with President Obama. (I do so pretty often actually). Meet the Press hasn't returned my calls even though I graciously volunteered to be on their show, I'm not the President's pal; I'm not an elected official; I'm not a leading voice in the Democratic party; and I don't have anything close to Cory Booker's 1,150,727 followers.

However, when Mayor Booker calls out the Obama campaign's tactics, it makes us wonder...was it the right thing to do? Should he have stuck to his guns and his morals that said, "The political discourse has gone too far, we've got to get above the nasty fighting and stay above the fray?" Or should he have stood by his friend and fellow statesman who's running in a tight race against a man that Mayor Booker surely doesn't want to win the presidency?

It's a tough call, and one we often have to make in our personal lives. Do you stand by your friend even when you disagree with her cheating on her kind yet gullible boyfriend? Or do you call her on it and threaten consequences if she doesn't shape up and act right?

In this case, I too have some critical feedback for the Obama campaign's tactics. The emails I'm getting from the Democratic National Committee often sound as divisive as a Fox News personality, and there's an ad out that compares Mitt Romney to a vampire for "sucking jobs away from a steel town." That type of rhetoric is polarizing and doesn't resonate with the charismatic picture of our president that draws voters together. Obama's campaign needs to take a couple chill pills. However, I believe that the mayor could have expressed his concerns to the campaign without necessarily sharing them with the world. I can't say for sure if Mayor Booker already tried to do this and had to resort to airing his concerns on Meet the Press, but think about it this way:

Drawing on the previous example, if your friend is cheating on her boyfriend, do you tell her to get right via Twitter or over a one-on-one brunch? Obviously, the right thing to do is the personal, less public option. Mayor Booker, I agree with what you said; I just question if the setting was right.

Welp. I don't know whether Mr. Newark regrets his word choice or comments, but I bet he never expected this would happen: Mitt Romney's campaign has a new star in their most recent attack ads; he's using the words of the one and only Honorable Mayor Cory Booker to attack the President.

Who. Woulda. Thunk? I guess we should be gearing up for a nasty ugly presidential election which is exactly what Booker was trying to avoid.

What do you all think? Where do you draw the line on sticking to your gut versus loyalty to your friends? Do you think there is always a way to choose both or find common ground? Let me know your thoughts. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day 2012

From age 11 to my departure for college, I lived with my younger siblings, Vanessa and John, and with my mother, Kim. My mom is many things, but cooker of large dinners, she is not. Our usual dinner routine was a phone call from Mom around 6 PM as she was on her way home from work, asking: What do you all feel like eating tonight?" One night, we'd opted for Popeye's. When she arrived home with the fragrant fried chicken, biscuits drizzled in honey, and greasy potato wedges, we were more than ready to dig in. Just as my mother was setting the table, there was a knock at the door. At the time, we lived in a community called "Little Africa" which is made up of primarily Black families, many related to each other, and many who had known each other for so many generations, we called them cousin anyway. So when my mother opened the door to reveal a middle aged man, who was more than a little dusty, I mildly recognized the face but couldn't quite place him. 

She greeted him and said, "How you doing? You here to pay your water bill?" (My mother worked at the water company where she was known to extend credit so folks' water wouldn't be turned off. Some people who lived in our neighborhood preferred to stop by the house and pay her directly versus traveling to the office.)

He mumbled "Naw. Ma'am, I was wondering if you had something I could eat." 

I told my sister to scoot over, anticipating that my mom was going to invite him to share our dinner. My mother did no such thing. Instead, she boxed up all the chicken, biscuits, assorted sides, grabbed some canned items, put it in a bundle and handed it over to him. She said, "Here you go, hun. This should hold you for a while." I don't know that I've ever seen such a grateful face. He accepted the food and headed on out the door.

I was livid. There were 3 hungry children in the house, and here she was just volunteering our dinner to some man that we didn't really know! How dare she?! She didn't even consult with us! Now before you start thinking I'm evil... I should share that I ran track and had the appetite of a linebacker. Furthermore, I knew my mom was struggling to make ends meet so I correctly guessed that PBandJ was in our immediate future. Also, I was a bratty, mouthy brace-faced teenager who was upset that puberty hadn't quite knocked on my door. Judge me if you must. I lashed out and said, "How could you just give away our dinner?! Now what are WE gonna eat? You're just going to let us starve?!?" (Did I mention that I was dramatic?)

The look of compassion left my mother's face just that quickly and she sharply said, "Crystal Marie have I ever let any of you all go hungry? Don't you dare say that again." And that was that. 

At the time I didn't recognize it, but my mother was teaching us a lesson in compassion. Yes, you should work hard to get what you need and want from life, but extending a helping hand is what we as humans are called to do. Many people talk about how great their mothers are to them, and I can certainly attest to that. But my mother is kind to complete strangers, a character trait that I don't see too often.

  • My mother's church attendance is sporadic; but I've never met someone more Christ-like than her.
  • My mother never graduated from college, but she's more intelligent and keen than most. (Every piece of advice or admonition she's given me has always proven true. Every. Single. Time. It's scary, really)
But most importantly, my mother is a living example of who I want to be. I find myself doing little things that she always does, many of them the very habits that annoyed me most as a kid. As I get older, I'm increasingly more attentive to her perspective on my major decisions. When I get good news, she is the first one I want to share it with. When I get upsetting news, she's the first person I call for solace.

Thank you Mom for being a friend; for checking me when I'm wrong; for reminding me of my value when I feel worthless; and for being a role model that I can call at any hour of the day for a free master class. 

I love you. Happy Mother's Day 2012. 

Love,
Your CrysCross 

P.S. She's also super bad.