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Sunday, October 27, 2013

You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman

One of my earliest memories was a confusing experience for an eight year old. After a busy day of freeze tag and “Mother May I” in Texas’ relentless heat and dust with my neighborhood friends, I stumbled into my friend Stephanie’s house for some water. Her mother was in the kitchen, back to me, stirring something in a pot and she was humming along to music so loud, she didn’t even hear me walk in. Just then, her father rumbled down the stairs, entered through a different door by the living room and surprised her with a kiss on the neck. She laughed flirtatiously, almost like a teenager and continued singing to him. I’ll never forget her voice, a bit off key but full of confidence: You make me feel like a natural whoaaamunn!

I stared wide-eyed, quest for water forgotten, and headed to my end of the cul-de-sac wondering what a “natural woman” was, and how did one come to feel like one. I thought, “Am I a natural woman yet? Is my mom one? Is this good?”

I should probably point out that as the daughter of a minister in a strict, conservative household, I really didn’t know any music beyond the Christian variety and a little Whitney Houston. Plus, I was eight. I probably wasn’t supposed to understand Aretha. But now, as an adult, I think I’ve got it.

Sometimes, fellas… you all say just the right thing, or remember just the right detail, or give us an unexpected gift that makes us warm inside. But often, it is your gift of touch that truly does the trick. For my friend Stephanie’s parents, it was a kiss at the nape of her neck. It’s these little things that makes us feel cherished, feel feminine, feel special, and yes… like a natural woman. What are they? I’ve gathered some stories from my girlfriends willing to open up:

1.       Her Feet. “A while back, I’d been dating a guy for a few months and for date night, we opted to stay in and order takeout. As I spread the takeout menus on the carpet, he casually picked up my right leg, put my foot in his lap and applied pressure using his long, nimble fingers and strong hands in a circular motion. I have no idea what we ended up ordering for dinner that night, but I remember his touch.” - Washington, DC

2.       His Chest. “In this day and age, women are independent, modern, doing things on our own. But I have no problem admitting that the place that I feel most safe is early in the morning, just before the sun comes up, when my husband pulls me onto his chest and nuzzles his scruffy goatee in my curls. It is in these moments that he is downright possessive. His arm encircles me, and he purposefully entangles our legs so that I can’t move. Luckily, I never want to.” - Phoenix, Arizona

3.       Her Waist. “We attended a concert together for the first time. It was an intimate venue, the kind where you’re not far from the stage and you’re likely to make friends with others in the crowd. As the floor filled with folks, I stood in front of him and he pulled me close, holding me at my waist. He kept time to the music by tapping me on either side, and with his warm body behind me swaying to the music, I felt the music most acutely there at my waist.” - Los Angeles, CA

4.       His Arms. “I remember it was maybe our third date and we were at the mall, walking to the theatre to catch a movie (The Pursuit of Happyness!). My (now) husband is a really popular DJ in the area and he’s constantly being stopped by people who want to say hello or take a picture. On this day, a few young women came up to him squealing with delight. As we approached, he put his arm around my shoulders casually, and told them, 'Hi, how are you? This is Amanda and we’re headed to the movies. But good seeing you!' Without making the situation awkward, he used a casual gesture to indicate that I was someone special to him who deserved respect. I’d been so used to guys trying so hard to maintain an appearance of singleness at all times, it immediately put me at ease.” - Philadelphia, PA

Sometimes, it seems our impatience compels us to head straight for the horizontal polka. But imagine how much more special, how much more intimate, how much more fulfilling our relationships would be if men slowed down and took the time to make their loved one feel like a natural woman? If you haven’t discovered that intimate – but not sexual – kind of touch that makes her smile, you’re both losing.

For every woman, it may be different. What makes you feel like a natural woman? What does your significant other really appreciate?


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Four Awkward Things That Could Happen on Cash Cab


Last night, I made about $950 while sitting on my couch. How did I do this you ask? Herbalife! Prepaid Legal!  By watching Cash Cab! Sadly, I was unable to collect any of the funds as I was not an actual contestant; I was merely a viewer who overturned a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios when I leaped up to shout "Fiddler Crab!! A fiddler crab is the crustacean named after a musician that you may find on the beaches of West  Africa!"

For those of you who haven't seen it, Cash Cab is a game show where unsuspecting New Yorkers hail a cab and learn that they've landed in a cab where they earn money during the ride for answering trivia questions correctly. Awesome, right? If they get three answers wrong however, they get kicked out of the cab with no money. It never gets easier to watch that. *Moment of Silence for the lady who couldn't recall the Canadian pop singer discovered on YouTube... Justin Bieber*

Anyway, I was thinking... wouldn't it be pretty interesting if something crazy happened on an episode of Cash Cab? The unimaginative voice in your head may say, "Whaaaaaaaat? What crazy thing could happen when a game show picks up random people and asks them questions leading to a large wad of cash in their pocket?" LOTS OF THINGS. 

Here are a few I've cooked up.

1. What if you got robbed?!? This could happen in two ways. 
A. you answer one too many questions wrong and the host lets you off in an unsavory neighborhood you stumbled across en route to see Fela, the musical. Rather than paying attention to your surroundings, you and your friends whip out your bedazzled smartphones to tweet "Dude I was just on Cash Cab!" The bedazzlements catch the eye of an enterprising individual and there goes your smartphone, loose change, and Platinum Debit Card from Bank of America.
Or B., you DO win and as you whip out your smartphone so that you can tweet a photo of the $400 you just won, an enterprising individual grabs the wad of cash and dashes into the subway before you can do anything. 

2.  What if the taxi driver gets into an accident? He whips his neck around to see if you're able to name five Motown acts (The Supremes, The Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight and the Pips, The Temptations)... and an oblivious New York tourist (probably visiting from LA), wanders into traffic and in that split second, you hit her. The way the show is set up, the longer you spend in the car, the more money you can win. So... would they allow the show to continue as you wait for the police report, the ambulance, and give an account of what happened? 'Cause while it sucks that that pedestrian needs stitches and crutches, it's kinda awesome that you could possibly win a ridiculous amount of money. 

3. What if the Cash Cab driver picks up a man taking his mistress to a warehouse party (much like the one I saw on Girls) and HIS WIFE SEES THE EPISODE?? So technically, this wouldn't happen DURING the show, but still... it'd be interesting to find out in a "Where Are They Now" feature. Plus, wouldn't it suck if you had to watch his mistress struggle to name the popular sneaker memorialized by a Run DMC song? (Duh Adidas, you Olivia Pope wannabe! Gah, at least cheat with a smart chick!)

4. What if a drunken group makes it into Cash Cab and a member of the group hurls? Do they still get to play? Does the host kick them out of the cab? If the hurler does so after they won the money, does the host take the money back and put it towards cleaning the cab? How does this work? 

Anyway, I know I'm not the only one that has got caught up in a Cash Cab Marathon on the Discovery Channel. Can you think of something awesome/awkward/weird/surprising/hilarious that might happen?

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

An Open Letter to the President


Dear Mr. President:

For the past several days, I've been debating an issue regarding your administration with a few friends, all ardent supporters of yours. All of us have read your books; we've donated and voted for you in both 2008 and 2012. Some of us even volunteered for your campaign and we all resisted the urge to unsubscribe from your well-meaning, but relentless emails. One friend in particular, has over time become more and more frustrated with what he perceives to be your selective concern for citizens. He believes that while you may personally care about all Americans, your public concern is limited to specific groups, namely those who wield the most political weight and media opportunities. In short, he believes you have neglected the poor, who are often black and brown. My reflex was to defend you and I did. Yet, the more I discussed the issue with him and others and coupled it with research, I found myself struggling to continue to defend you in good faith.

By the close of the conversations, I felt compelled to address the problem head on by talking to you directly, Mr. Obama. After poring over data, my convictions give me no other choice. But first, I begin with a story:

The year I graduated from Howard University, Oprah Winfrey was the selected commencement speaker. Upon receiving her honorary degree, she made a remark through tear-streaked eyes that has stuck with me: “You can receive a lot of rewards in your life, but there is nothing better than to be honored by your own.”

You, Mr. President have received that distinct honor. As I’m sure you know, 96% and 93% of African-Americans voted for you in 2008 and 2012 respectively. Your supporters voted for you not simply because of your skin color, but because we believed – and continue to believe- that you are genuinely interested in moving the country towards one America, not a divided one. In many ways, you have not disappointed:

The first bill you signed into law was the Lily Ledbetter Act, safeguarding equal pay for women. You extended benefits to same sex domestic partners of federal employees. You certified the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, a discriminatory policy against gays in the military. You became the first president to support marriage equality. You supported the DREAM Act, offering legality to undocumented minors. So as not to tire the reader, I will not attempt to outline the ethnic diversity of the appointments you’ve made – including the historic appointment of the Honorable Sonia Sotomayor. You have made sweeping changes and given a voice to groups not often represented in the political sphere.

Nevertheless, some communities continue to feel voiceless. There are still some communities who believe that their concerns, aspirations, and even their livelihood matter less. In all of the talk of the middle class, your administration and the public often sidelines the poor and those who are black and brown. While there are countless variables where one could find disparities between Blacks, Latinos and Whites, I’d like to focus on three that I believe require your immediate attention:

1.      Income
The median household income by ethnicity (rounded, 2009):
§   National: $50K
§  Whites: $52K
§   Asians: $65K
§   Blacks: $36K
§   Latinos: $38K
 
2.      Education
College graduation of high school graduates after six years by ethnicity (2010)
§  Asians: 69%
§  Whites: 62%
§  Latinos: 50%
§  Blacks: 39%
 
3.      Gun Violence
§  Black children and teens accounted for 45 percent of all child and teen gun deaths, but were only 15 percent of the total child population. (2008-2009)
§  Black males 15-19 were eight times as likely as White males of the same age to be killed in a gun homicide. (2008-2009)

The Great Recession affected nearly every family in some way; yet many people of color were hit especially hard. For example, in 2009, Black American families brought in $14,000 less than the national average – a significant sum during tough times. Income inequalities coupled with less education makes for a disastrous concoction, adding a significant barrier to entry into the middle class.

Yet the education and income statistics are not the ones that trouble me most. If America is unable to provide equal education and income opportunities for its citizens, at the very least, it should do its best to secure life. I am not a parent, but you are. I saw your very real reaction to the tragic deaths in Newtown. I shudder to think of how difficult it is  for parents who love their children as much you do, to send children out into neighborhoods rife with crime, gun violence, and what may seem like imminent death. A diversity of communities have felt the pain of a child gone much too soon; but the shadow of death darkens the sidewalks and alleys of Chicago, Oakland, Flint, Baltimore, Las Vegas and other cities with chilling consistency.

Mr. President, you have had the unfortunate task of comforting cities and families across this nation as they struggle to understand seemingly indiscriminate violence. You’ve spoken to distraught mothers in Newtown, shaken Bostonians, and stunned survivors in Aurora. While it didn’t bring back a life, your thoughtful eulogies, heartfelt embraces and simply your presence showed those individuals you cared. They knew in that moment, that the country  stood beside them in their time of pain. But the violence isn’t indiscriminate. In a cruel twist, those neighborhoods most familiar with death are least familiar with attention.

My defense of you to my aforementioned friends was that "Barack Obama is the President of the entire United States, not merely the Black constituents." I pointed out that the push for gun safety has positive implications for all citizens of all backgrounds. I continued that a President couldn’t attend the funeral of every slain child in America. When I added that you have already been accused of “giving targeted [minority] groups a big gift,” it was then I realized that my arguments were falling flat on even my own ears.

You’re not running for reelection. Your critics will criticize you regardless of what you do. Your supporters will continue to respect you when you do what is right. When you supported marriage equality, you didn’t immediately become the “President of the Gays.” When you supported fairness for women’s pay, you weren’t perceived as “catering to women.” Sensible Americans simply considered you the president who cares.

I don’t believe I’m telling you anything you don’t already know. I also don’t believe that you can wield a magic wand and fix these problems. Black and Latino communities will have to do the hard work of improving the quality of life for their families. Community organizers, parents, law enforcement, local legislators, educators and others will need to work together. People will need to create solutions best suited to their unique needs. But I believe that with your platform, what you can provide is the most inexpensive thing to give. Attention


So what do I propose as a solution? To start, acknowledge that there are real disparities between ethnic groups often fueled by socioeconomics that our country needs to address. From there, I suggest you consider legislation and initiatives to confront these problems. Your campaign effectively organized people to vote and spread your message; what if those same kinds of strategic yet grassroots efforts were used to organize on behalf of the least of these? I’m not happy with what America has accepted as “normal” for impoverished communities. Are you?

Your voice matters. I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that a few months after you expressed support for same sex marriage, a majority of the country also supported it. A good friend of mine reminded me of the following: President Kennedy didn’t compel the country to “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” simply because it was good rhetoric. He knew the influence his voice and the office wielded; it is the same influence you have. If you choose to use it, you won’t simply be helping the minorities of our country; you will ensure all of the country benefits from a diverse, educated, financially stable America.  And that, Mr. President is your job.

Thank you for reading.

Respectfully,

Crystal Marie

P.S.: Excellent job at the White House Correspondents Dinner. Conan who?


Editor's Note: While I have signed this letter, it was truly a group effort. Much of the insight and perspectives shared here have been provided by my brilliant circle - Mr. Lomax was the catalyst for the discussion, Mr. Murphy and Mr. Jackson intelligently challenged it, and Mr. Baker provided a journalistic assist.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Everyone Does (At Least) One of These Four Things That Annoys Us All. Stop It.


I know I haven't blogged in quite some time. Please forgive me, but I'm a full time student who also works full time. When I do get a free moment, I usually end up rewatching episodes of Girls trying to catch up on some reading. Nevertheless, you people have inspired me. You people, yes... you, the American people have inspired me to issue an important memo about things we all do that we all hate. Sometimes you don't realize that these things are annoying until it's your birthday and no one wants to come to your party. (But you can cry if you want to; I would cry too if it happened to me).

Let's go:

1. You say "I don't really watch TV." A few months ago, the morning after the Oscars, I asked a friend what he thought about Seth McFarlane's performance. 
Him: Who?
Me: Seth McFarlane... the host of the Oscars, did you watch it?
Him: Nah, was that last night or something?
Me: ... Yeah, a few miles away from here... 
Him: Oh... cool. Who's that?
Me:... uh... Oscar?
Him: Seth Mc--- what'd you say?
Me: Seth McFarlane, the creator of Family Guy. 
Him: Oh... Family Guy. I think I've heard of that. Never seen it. I don't really watch TV. 

You lying, B. Mind you, I happen to know he has a television large enough to produce a life-size image of Shaq. I'm not buying it. Especially not from someone whose voicemail says: "I'm probably doing yoga now, but I'll call you back when I'm done. Don't text me; that's impersonal. Namaste." This is all part of your act.

2. You have an email signature too long to make it onto Twitter. I know you want to end every email with an opportunity for people to connect to you via every social network possible and see all of your titles, and to also be moved to tears by a Bible verse or quote you've charmingly added to the end. Also, you know that to get this message across effectively, you believe it needs to be in your favorite cursive font in your favorite color with your family logo. Nah, bruh. I've asked around done research and the results came back: 100% of the respondents would rather you shorten your email signature to two lines. Do you think Barack Obama's signature looks like:

In Service,
Barack H. Obama, President of the United States of America
Father, Husband, Community Organizer, Mover & Shaker, Non-Authorizer-of-the-Carters'-Trip-to-Cuba
Connect with me! Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Pinterest /Tumblr 
***

Let's chat here too!
 My chick bad, my chick hood; my chick do stuff that yo' chick wish she could. - Christopher Bridges



3. You complain about things that aren't really problems, e.g. "Girl I am just getting so tired of having to get my hair trimmed. It's like every month, there's another three inches!" Usually this is said to a poor soul with damaged ends whose hair hasn't grown an inch in a year. Cut it out. 

4. You plan a week-long birthday extravaganza with mandatory events. Everyone on the planet has a birthday. EVERYONE. There are 52 weeks in the year, and the average person probably has at least 7 or 8 friends who they are close enough to where it is a requirement that they do something for that person's birthday. So what if they all had weeklong parties/dinners/happy hours/skating events/fundraising/community service that they required you do? You'd spend two months celebrating birthdays, and that's not even including your own. Ain't nobody got time for dat! Except for the milestones (like the big 3 - 0), one dinner where we all awkwardly split a large check at The Cheesecake Factory should suffice. (And if people can't make it, stop giving them a hard time.) 


If you've done one of these things, don't feel bad: you're in company with just about EVERYONE. Very few people have been cool enough to skip all of these habits. (I've been guilty of #1 and #3). But the more you know... the more you can stop annoying us all. 

#Thanks

Any randomly annoying things you or your friends do that you want to add to this petition? Let me know!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

True Southern Hospitality (and Christian love)


Ah. I love the South. 

The sizzle of hot, juicy yet crispy fatback in a cast iron skillet is one of my favorite sounds and always reminds me of South Carolina. Since my grandmother's passing, I haven't had any, and I can't bring myself to ask for it in these hipster California grocery stores. Soul food isn't all I miss about living in the South. It's also the traditional style of Southern Baptist churches. My home church had a strong, vibrant membership but was small enough that if I wasn't there, it was noticed. The hymns I sang there and the motherly love I received was enough to have me humming joyously on my way home.

If the reassuring faith traditions and delectable food hadn't done it, the gracious hospitality, the neighborly love, the "it takes a village" upbringing, the lack of traffic (or need to parallel park), and the rich Southern accents that make you believe it's impossible for a guy like John Edwards to be a bad guy were enough to make me embrace my Southern roots. 

Unfortunately, this is not all the South is known for.

The kindness represented in Southern ladies and gentlemen that warms the hearts and souls of both tourists and longtime residents alike, often grows cold when they enter the voting booth... or a discussion about what to do about the poor or the Obama administration's morally bankrupt drone policy that has killed civilians overseas. (Yes, sometimes I disagree with President Obama!) 

Like many of my conservative friends, I do believe that a politician's faith has a strong influence on who I vote for. It would seem that we'd be voting for the same candidates right? Not so. I care little about how often a candidate attends a church service or how often she mentions God on the stump. If a Congress member attends worship services every Sunday, but on Monday votes to push forth a budget that drastically cuts resources to the "least of these" *cough Paul Ryan cough*, I struggle to truly see how God's love, grace, and mercy is represented when it truly matters. Faith without works is dead. Loving the poor in your personal life but ignoring them in the voting booth seem like what the Bible would call lukewarm. And God is pretty clear on how much he hates that. 

I recently read a sermon where a minister quipped "Nobody gets into heaven without a letter of reference from the poor." This minister was surely inspired by Jesus' statement in Matthew 25:40 that "whatever you have done to the least of these, you have done to Me."

So what does it mean to be a Christian from the South? Does it mean you offer sweet tea with a serving of marriage inequality on the side?

Does it mean you cherish family values, so long as the family we're talking about looks like yours and came from where you came from?

Does it mean that we Christian Southerners meticulously care for our lawns and backyards, but not the environment that our Creator endowed us to take care of?

I certainly hope not.

I leave you with one of my favorite Bible stories. King Solomon, often regarded as the wisest man who ever lived, was presented with quite a 
conundrum a few thousand years ago. Two women brought forth a baby child, both claiming to be the mother. They wanted King Solomon to assert custody to the rightful mother. So he recommended what any wise King would recommend: "Cut the baby in half! That way, you'll each have a piece!" The lying woman agreed to this plan, but the rightful mother of the child realized that her child's safety was much more important than the right to a dead remnant of a child. She yelled out "No! Let the other woman have her; just don't kill my child!" And that was how King Solomon was able to decipher the true mother of the child. The one who chose safety for her child, even when it meant sacrifice.

Why did I tell this story? Because I have the joy of seeing men and women I grew up with now rearing their own beautiful children. I must admit, my Southern friends vastly outpace my other friends in the family-making department and the love I see in their eyes as they hold the hands of their toddlers is priceless. Yet, while statistics repeatedly show that loose gun control policies at a national (not just state wide) level lead to less homicides and accidental deaths, many folks, particularly my friends in the South, elect to hold onto to their dangerous interpretation of the Second Amendment, versus adopting legislation that may mean sacrificing the right to say... purchase a gun without a background check. See the parallels? Can my fellow Southerners choose life when it is coupled with a sacrifice like universal background checks to save our nieces, nephews, grandkids, and children? Or will we risk another Newtown while holding onto our unchecked right to bear arms?

I'm proud to be from the land of Bojangle's biscuits, spirited high school football, and traditional Baptist services with rich gospel music and Word that feeds the soul.

I'm so proud of the land I'm from that I hold it to a high standard. Only time will tell whether we live up to it.

**
I hope that whether you are a proud Yankee, a tofu-eating Californian, or my favorite, a Southern gentleman with a baritone drawl, that you hear the respect I strove to infuse in my thoughts. I welcome your opinions, dissenting or approving (or somewhere in between).