Saturday, February 18, 2017

Dear Ivanka

Yesterday morning as I listened to analysis of the daily disaster that is President 45, I had an epiphany of sorts...one that goes against my better judgment in terms of offering any sympathy to this Administration at all. But, here goes:

Ivanka, your Daddy needs you. But more importantly, so does your country.

No, we do not need more of those tastefully bland dresses, bangles or shoes from what you call a fashion line. You know, the one that is being designed by someone else who is probably pissed that s/he ever made that deal to gain exposure by hitching onto your family name? Because as much as I feel bad that you are losing high end retailers left and right (not really), I think that is the least of your worries. But I promise if you have someone read this to you, then there is a slight chance of a turnaround (for your fashion empire, not your Daddy's disastrous presidency).

And a quick word about Step Mummy before I make my modest proposal--yeah girl, your country needs YOU, not her.

So dear Lady Ivanka, will you please step up to the plate and start acting like a First Lady? Instead of staring at Justin Trudeau, who is admittedly quite dreamy, would you please do something traditionally First Ladylike so that you can inspire the nation? Because after four weeks of hating your Dad, we need a break.

Traditionally we tend to like our First Ladies, even when we are deeply divided by opinions on their husbands. In my memory, the most polarizing First Lady was Nancy Reagan, but that changed once she became an advocate for Alzheimer's disease. Actually that isn't true when I consider how much folks still hate Hillary Clinton some 20+ years later, but I dare you to find anyone other than a few curmudgeons out there who harbor bad feelings towards Rosalyn Carter, Barbara Bush or the Lovely Laura Bush. And only the racists hated on the recently departed Michelle Obama, so what do you have to lose? Especially since Step Mummy wants no parts of the Washington fishbowl.

And for the record, we don't hate Step Mummy; we feel sorry for her. We get that her refusal to move into the White House is a declaration of independence of sorts, a means for her to plot her eventual escape. She just wanted to be an Upper East-side lady that lunches. But you dear Lady Ivanka were born for this. And besides, it offers you an altogether different and more lucrative opportunity...

To be our First Working Lady, the title that eluded Hillary Clinton in the 90s. The title that Laura Bush really didn't need since she was retired, and that Michelle Obama had to eschew for other historical considerations. However, you have a gold-plated opportunity to update the ceremonial persona of Presidential-consort by presenting us with a different, bolder, and more modern role-model. And you don't even need to wrack your brain to select any issues to highlight since you already identified plenty in your convention speech last summer. You said that your Daddy would be the champion for working women, so now is your chance to help him do more than launch another hashtag rebellion.

Here is the deal: we don't like your Daddy and there is a snowball's chance in Hell that will ever change. His dismal approval ratings might not be of concern to you now, as you bask in the afterglow of winning but you need to consider that he is a political novice who has limited political capital. Regardless of his oft-repeated mantra about an electoral landslide, he is vulnerable. All you have are his first 100 days when he gets only so many chances to fuck up.

Therefore, Lady Ivanka, we need you to deflect attention from his bizarre pressers, poorly crafted Executive Orders, and groggy 6am tweets. Find a magazine willing to put you on the cover wearing one of *your* designs. Address the unique challenges of being the First Daughter/Lady. Get accidentally photographed at a soccer game for one of your kids while touching a stroller containing another kid. Fire your undocumented nanny, have her deported, and then kvetch about how hard it is to find good help that doesn't waste taxpayer money.

It's almost time to announce the White House Easter Egg Roll, so here is what you should do: (1) make the announcement at an inner city DC public school where only "the blacks" and "Hispanics" attend; (2) have Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos invite the entire student body of W.E.B. DUBOIS Elementary School in Chicago; and (3) in a savvy nod to the changing of the celebrity guard from Jay Z and Beyonce, make sure that Tom Brady will be there with Gisele Bundchen and their brood.

People will love that shit.

To be clear, I am not advising you to sell out and order cupcakes for some charity function. Nor am I suggesting that you need to feign interest in poor people by riding past a soup kitchen. We don't need you to adopt some cause other than promoting yourself. Working women need to see you excel at what the rest of us barely manage because it will reinforce what we already know--First Ladyhood is easy when you have a staff and access to great makeup at your beck and call.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Modern Inconveniences

So here's another life-is-hard-outchere-in-these-streets-for-a-new-mother rant...

I desperately needed to decompress from some of the stress I have been experiencing (and unleashing on others), so I decided to take in a few movies this week. I wanted to see one film in particular today because it has a limited release. So last night I took out my movie app, found a theater, selected the appropriate movie time, and generally planned my day to balance appropriate child-centered activities with a little Me-time.

On a typical day, my child is well-behaved. I can take her to most places and expect that she will not cause any major damage to property. That being said, she did not cause any major damage to property despite her unusual rambunctiousness. So I am not here to complain about her; I am here to complain about everyone else.

We started the morning with the aforementioned child-centered activity, which was story time at the local library. On a typical day, she would have expended a great deal of energy before, during and after story time sufficient to allow me to have enjoyed the matinee while she napped. In the event that she was not asleep, my plan B was to provide her with her own popcorn and snacks to keep her occupied until the end of the movie (which was not that long). And I chose the Monday matinee, so what's the worse that could happen???

Well, I saw about 20 minutes of the film before she got antsy, needed to be taken to the bathroom, proceeded to squirm and wiggle, and then she needed be taken to the bathroom again. She also decided to chat and sing and chat and sing, so I never made it back to my seat.

This is where the veteran parents should offer to deconstruct what went wrong for me so that I know how to plan accordingly next time. But I suspect most of them will simply offer me a knowing shrug, pat me on the head, and assure me that I will be able to sit through a movie again one day. The film will air on TV at some point, so I'm cool.

What was not cool, however, was the judgment of the other patrons, beginning with the person who felt the need to shush every time my kid made even the slightest sound from the moment we took our seats. And then the look of disgust that one couple flashed at us as they left the theater (while I was standing outside in the lobby). And then the way that it seemed like EVERYONE was so fucking offended that I had the gall to bring my kid out in public!

Apparently no one has enough patience, tolerance or compassion for anyone or anything that disturbs how they wish to experience life. Meaning, I can never venture outside of predesignated kid zones without suffering the consequences of rudeness, impatience, and lack of common courtesy. Had I brought a howling dog to the movies, I would have generated less ire.

So allow me to issue my sincerest apologies to any parent whom I might have maligned in my BC (before child) past. I regret if I ever shot you an annoyed glance when your child whimpered a little too audibly or if I got testy if you took too long to bring their tantrum to an immediate end. Let me also remand any final judgments I might have made concerning your lack of complete control over any number of situations. Like any judge presented with new facts, I have reconsidered my initial verdict and have found in your favor because you were doing your best...children are unpredictable and quite possibly insane.

And to those who have forgotten what it was like to be the parent whose entertainment options on most days was limited to whatever animated character the kid demands to watch over and over again, it is a minimal inconvenience to simply be kind. Be understanding. You got to see the movie--I paid $11 to watch my child run around in circles out in the lobby.

On the way home from this debacle I recalled how I humiliating it was for me on that flight home from Chicago when my daughter essentially screamed the entire flight. I have no idea what was wrong and trust me, I tried EVERYTHING I could think of to quiet her. I felt horrible even though we had to pay extra to sit together and when I accidentally sat in the wrong row with my inconsolable child, some woman insisted that I move because I was in her seat.

I don't want the world to cater to my needs; I just want to feel that my existence is not a societal inconvenience. Like if you are standing in the curb cut when I am approaching from the opposite side of the street with the stroller, MOVE. Make room on the elevator, ask me if I am waiting for the larger bathroom stall before walking past me, and seriously, can someone hold the damn door open for me instead of letting it slam in my face!?!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Weary Blues

Toddlers are...

And I wouldn't trade mine for anything. So instead of complaining about the little cherub (because right now, she is amusing herself with the training potty, the box it came in, and that donut stacker toy). We didn't make it to play group today because I haven't been able to get myself together since Sunday. At least I finally got a shower.

I have had a crappy week and I am in no mood for anything. I barely want to eat. I just want to sleep. I imagine all mothers hit this wall where every little thing becomes annoying and difficult, but my blahs aren't about dealing with the Babe. It is about my mother.

Today is her 70th birthday. I thought that I would organize a party for her, but she has been out of sorts since Christmas. The details are all over the place, but suffice it to say that between some of her health issues and the accompanying family drama, I have absolutely nothing. Other than a card.

Since I missed playgroup I should be getting us ready to go out to wherever my Dad wants to take my Mom for lunch, which is probably Red Lobster (my least favorite place to go with them) but I don't even have the energy to protest. I just want to go along to get along at this point. The Babe is partially dressed and playing with the potty while watching one of her shows, so I am taking this time to vent.

Let's start with the Babe and our adventures in potty training. I have no plan, no clue and no guidance because I have no Mommy friends, no Mom, etc. Yet, I thought that it might be time to start the process so I brought the toilet up from the basement yesterday. When she saw the box, she decided to push it into the dining room to use as a prop for whatever imaginary game she was playing that involved needing a box. This morning I got the bright idea to introduce her to the toilet while watching Sesame Street, and so far, she gets that she is supposed to sit on it. Or stand on it. Or get her legs stuck in the hole where the bowl is supposed to go.

I pulled up a video that claimed to offer the secret to potty training in three days, but after wasting ten minutes watching an animation about a woman who allegedly perfected her method after she spent $329 on a pair of black silk Prada pants only to realize that she was selling a book and not providing any actual tips, I am sitting here now half dressed and even more flustered and overwhelmed.

I don't want to finish getting dressed. I don't want to leave the house. I don't want to bother with potty training. I don't want to go to Red Lobster. I don't want to sit through another wrenching lunch experience with my Dad, Mom and her home care aide. I don't want to see my mother wearing an ankle boot (she sprained her ankle somehow...but I won't even ask how that happened since she doesn't do that much). I don't want to be confronted by another family member's passive aggressive accusatory bullshit.

I don't want to celebrate my mother's 70th birthday today.

I am not being selfish, I am just being honest. I love my mother and know how blessed I am to still have her given the dreadful prognosis of early-onset Alzheimer's. I know that I need to take every possible moment to celebrate her, what she has meant to others (like her former students who took us to see Fences), and what she has meant to our family. We should all be together, but we aren't.

However, I do not wish to waste another day in my house and watch my child spin herself into butter because she has cabin fever. So I am about to shut this computer off, finished getting dressed, head over to my parents' and go to lunch with them at Red Lobster. I will give my mother her cards, listen to my Dad talk about westerns and politics, then wait around for my Niece so that she and the Babe can play together. I will muscle through the day even if it takes every ounce of strength because today is not about how I feel or how pissed I am or about how mad or pissed anyone else might be with me.

Happy 70th Birthday to my Mother!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Post-Partum is a Bitch

I know that I have been doing a lot more political writing lately and while I cannot promise that the inspiration to lash out every other day or so for the next 1456 days will subside any time soon...I can promise an eventual return to our regularly scheduled programming. And I guess I have been writing quite a bit about motherhood as well, so let's just say that I will surprise you one day soon with a piece about mascara, my cool new flats, or the Oscars. Right now I need to vent a little about motherhood. Again.

So nothing crazy or out of the ordinary occurred today until this evening when the Babe screamed like a Banshee after her bath for ten straight minutes. But that is becoming normal, so today's gripe is about how my body is still not right and this kid will be two years old in April. Like seriously, why come no one told me that post-partum would become the norm for my life? I will keep this brief because it is a little TMI, but I itch! I leak! I have creaky joints! And for the first time in my life I HAVE PMS!

So apparently, I will NEVER recover from this???!!! 

I know some of this is old age. Which is why I give everyone who asks when I plan to have another child the serious side eye. I am 43 years old. Mama is tired so this kitchen is closed. But some of this is straight up gangsta Big Sister Mother Nature hazing, and giving me the side eye as if to say "Heffa, you know you should have had that girl back in the 90s. You could be laughing at her post-partum a$$ right now!"

So to Janet, Halle Berry, Kelly Preston and any other woman who wants to have a baby after 45, go with God. And if you are over 40 and pregnant with multiples...you really need Jesus.

And in my best Forrest Gump voice, that is all I have to say about that. Go on back to watching the New Edition movie.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Life in the Twilight Zone

The Hub grew up watching the Twilight Zone, so every major holiday weekend when one of the cable stations runs a marathon, he half-watches every hour or so in order to guess the episode within the first few minutes. I begin with this seemingly random pop culture anecdote because life since the Trumpacalyspe has felt at times like one of those bizarre Twilight Zone episodes. For instance, there is the one when someone with a golden chip on her shoulder blasts a Hollywood icon for being too elitist...

Which is otherwise known as that time when Meghan McCain criticized Meryl Streep's Golden Globe speech. (I am a couple of weeks late, but I'm feeling a bit inspired by the Women's March to revisit this matter, especially since the Trumpet also made a point of lambasting celebrity activism).

The first irony, of course, is that Meghan McCain is herself an elite. She is the daughter of a U.S. Senator who happened to run for President. Twice. I'm not really sure what she does for a living, what she ever did for a living, but I know it currently involves working at FOX News. But even if she doesn't have any other real job, she is still the daughter of a U.S. Senator who ran for President, twice. Meryl Streep, on the other hand, is just the hardest working actress in showbiz (but let's not get it twisted as we all know that Streep is quite privileged herself, but go with me on this for a bit.)

I honestly would have overlooked this as white noise, but this weekend's juxtaposition of truth to alternative facts made me wonder. Why does an actor's statement at an awards show that only certain coastal elites bother to watch, and that would not have gotten much attention except for the fact that she took aim and fired a perfect shot at the then-President Elect without calling him out by name, matter to the conservative "activist" daughter of a U.S. Senator who ran for President, twice? Gee...

So my best guess is that as Meghan's Dad is still wondering why he is not vacationing with his lovely wife like the guy who beat him eight years ago, or painting lovely portraits like the guy who beat him 16 years ago, the family needs to find creative ways to stand up to the Trumpet. That guy who took the birther ball that McCain failed to deflate during his candidacy in 2008 and ran with it. The Trumpet. That guy who got endorsed by Sister Sarah, that chick McCain unfortunately tapped to be his running mate in 2008. The Trumpet. That guy who suggested that McCain was not much of an American war hero since he got captured and tortured. That guy.

So Miss Meghan seized the opportunity of the Golden Globes, the most self-congratulatory of the entertainment award season, to take a predictable swipe at Hollywood elitism and then quickly deny culpability since she and her family did not vote for That guy. That while she feels our pain, it is our "snowflake liberal" high-mindedness that enables folks like Meryl to dare speak out against him. I mean, what is she anyway, just some well-known blond with an opinion...

Perhaps it is the irony of Meghan's waning relevance as the conservative millennial who speaks for the little guy. Well, now that job now belongs to Lady Ivanka, but she still has a job at FOX, right? Oh wait, FOX just decided that Stacy Dash was redundant, so maybe they will be going in a different direction now that Rupert Murdoch is gone and the network is imploding. Can they fire the daughter of a U.S. Senator who ran for President twice?

Meghan, as the daughter of a U.S. Senator who ran for President twice, you could have used the opportunity to say a lot more about how Hollywood can facilitate building bridges to middle America without throwing bricks. How Hollywood has a responsibility to present diversity of opinion in such a way that demonstrates mutual respect rather than fomenting disunion. Instead, you emulated the Trumpet and deflected. If we really are on the same side in opposing the divisiveness that helped to elect him, then why perpetuate the narrative that certain Americans are somehow more authentically "American" than others?

What got the Trumpet elected was the unwillingness of men like your father, who ran for President twice, to do more than just not attend Trumpelthinskin's convention, not actively campaign for him, or maybe not vote for him. I remember how your father, who ran for President twice, politely corrected a woman at one of his rallies when she accused then-candidate Obama of not being an American. So having stood up and shown that type of character when it did not serve his interests back in 2008, it would have been just as courageous for your father to have denounced birtherism from the beginning. If he had, he could have saved us all from this American Horror Show.

Sorry Meghan, you do not get to blame liberals for the election of a reality TV star to the most important job on the planet. You do not get to tweet out nonsense and then assume that because you are the daughter of a U.S. Senator who ran for President twice, you bear no culpability. And it is not Meryl Streep's fault that your party got hijacked by its extreme fringe, nominated a demagogue, and is now stuck with him. Hollywood elites don't fan the flames of discord by embracing and promoting a narrow and opportunistic definition of patriotism. Tinseltown is far from perfect (having been shamed into making more efforts at diversity by a hashtag), but at least they try to promote an American ideal that can exist in the real world--not inside the Twilight Zone.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Post-Marching Orders

I wrote this quick piece on the eve of the Inauguration about my last-minute change of heart regarding attending the Women's March. Then I posted this update to the Busy Black Woman FB page that night after the march in New York finally ended and we were back in the hotel. I've had a day to digest the various FB posts and news analysis and post-march declarations, criticisms, and skepticism. I am feeling a variety of emotions, but I will focus on what inspired me and then what depressed me.

I was inspired by the sheer number of people who had taken to the streets. The night before I checked my email to get logistical information and noted that the organizers had planned staggered starts to manage the flow of traffic. I didn't actually consider what that meant until much later the next evening when people were still marching through the streets until 6pm!

We were staying about ten blocks from the starting point and as we were walking there, we were passed by several groups of pink-hatted ladies carrying hand-made signs. I snapped a few photos, especially of the very creative signs and costumes (yes) that we saw on the street. We never made it to the starting point because there were so many people. In all of the years I have been participating in marches, this was one of the largest events I have ever attended.

I was inspired by the reports that sister marches all over the country, and later the world, had attracted millions, which was in stark contrast to the thousands who had gathered to watch #45 take the oath. It might be petty to compare the gatherings, but in my mind, the global reaction to the inauguration of our new president suggests that there is a movement afoot to resist his reactionary agenda!

What depressed me? The reactions on FB and other social media by people who ridiculed the protest for various reasons. There were the comments on Twitter that denigrated Sybrina Fulton, the mother of slain teenager Trayvon Martin. There were the FB postings by women who criticized the need to march against a President who had only been sworn in 24 earlier. There was the caller to C-Span who complained that the concerns of 'real' American women were being displaced by calls for justice by women of color. There was the post I read this morning written by a black participant expressing her antipathy of white women based on her life experiences, reaffirmed by her experience on her way to the March.

I know better than to waste energy being despondent by negative reactions to the march by those who never shared its goals and who will never understand why there was a need to take to the streets. I can ignore the cynicism of my sisters who chose to watch from the sidelines. I could be satisfied, like so many of the participants I encountered the following day, that I was a part of history, and then return to grousing on social media.

Or I can actually do something.

One of our friends made good on his intention to start raising money for a different organization every 30 days, and that is something. The Hub is donating to several social justice organizations above and beyond his annual CFC allotment, so that is something. A classmate of mine declared his intention to run for public office, so that is something. I have a few other classmates who are running for local office in their respective jurisdictions, so that is something. Several of my Spelman sisters want to organize political action activities to prepare for the midterm elections, so that is something. And I plan to be honing in on some political activism and fundraising, so that is something.

If you are tired of marching and protesting because you claim nothing ever happens afterwards, but you are not actively doing anything other than airing grievances on social media, then I am tired of watching you just get more tired. I know that some of you are truly Busy Black Women--holding down full-time jobs, raising children and caring for elders, and just trying to keep track of each day. Perhaps you are already active in your church, community, sorority or other organization and just don't have the extra time to spare on another cause. And yes, there are issues when it comes to the idea of a global sisterhood...which is why I refused to parade around in a pussy hat.

If we we intend for this movement to last longer than a moment, then we must persuade everyone, and I mean everyone, who marched in person or participated in spirit to find something worthwhile to do on behalf of the cause. On Thursday when I should have been packing, I went to Costco to buy refreshments to donate at a local church for DC march participants. I didn't take a selfie to congratulate myself for being so considerate, and the only reason why I am sharing this is to highlight how even the smallest gesture of support is doing something.

For me, Saturday was another march and yet, it was not just another march. It was the continuation of my life's work, which is the pursuit of justice and equality. It was confirmation that despite my initial misgivings and apprehensions, we are on the brink of change. If we were not so powerful, why did our numbers matter (note how #45 re-instituted the global gag rule in response to our protests), so this must be more than a one-day demonstration. Let us march on till victory is won!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

So Hard to Say Goodbye

Dear President and Mrs. Obama,

I have been putting off writing this note for weeks--I actually had selected the right card and knew most of what I wanted to say in gratitude for these past eight years. But then I never got around to writing anything, debated whether that one small 3x5 or 4x6 card would be insufficient to contain all of what I wanted to say, and then I look up and today is January the 19th.

I am currently staring at a blank screen with the same look one has when looking down on a blank piece of paper--with the anticipation of everything I want to say, along with everything I think I want to say, but without the precise words to say anything. I want this statement to be eloquent, beautiful and moving, but most importantly genuine and real. I want you and your family to KNOW what you have meant. Perhaps my inability to articulate my feelings comes from there being too much to say...

I am a perfectionist, and it has dawned on me that I have spent an entire paragraph trying not to be too effusive or stumble over myself and get repetitive and awkward. I am just so full of emotion right now. So here goes: (Deep breath)...first of all, thank you for making it to the end.

A lot of folks were afraid that you would not live to see this day because they assumed that your real enemies preferred to see you dead, rather than see you fail. Many of those old folks lived through the 60s so they assumed the worst, but thankfully those are the same old folks who came up through conditions that were so unimaginable to our generation, so those are those praying-all-through-the-day-and-night old folks. They prayed as hard for your survival as they pray for their wayward grandchildren.

Second, thank you for finishing your tenure with no major scandals. Unfortunately high-profile black elected officials tend to leave office in disgrace. With twelve hours left, I think it is safe to assume that your escort from the premises tomorrow afternoon will look nothing like a perp walk.

Third, thank you for your beautiful daughters. Thank you for shielding them from the glare of a too hot spotlight that would seek to fry their very souls. Thank you for allowing us to see them act like sweet little girls, then like bored and uninterested teenagers, and now like poised young ladies. Thank you for punishing Sasha on the night of your last speech (because I am not buying that she had a test the next day)...but then again, even if she really did have a test the next day, thank you for making her stay at home to study because that is what good parents do sometimes. Thank you for allowing Malia the space to take a year off, which I hope means that I will absentmindedly walk into a Baby Gap somewhere around the city and spot her folding sweaters. I would be even more grateful if Sasha applies to my beloved Spelman College.

Thank you for marrying Michelle LaVaughn Robinson.

And because saying thank for Michelle is not the same as saying thank you to Michelle: Thank you Michelle Obama for being that ultra-fly girlfriend; that always stylish big sister; that cool Mom who brings the healthy snacks; that around-the-way girl who never did take off her earrings even when she was tempted to remind you that she grew up on the South Side of Chicago; that ultimate Busy Black Woman!

Finally, thank you Mr. President. Black nerds like me definitely appreciate the fact that you made being intelligent look cool. You have freed us from the box that confined blackness to the hood or to the stage or on the field or in the pulpit or in prison or in premature graves.

I would cite some of your policy successes, but I won't. I will allow those to be evaluated by historians. I know that the plans are underway to eviscerate many of your accomplishments, and it is just too cynical to believe that this was all just a dream, but because I know otherwise, history will decide how you rank.

And I am just about done. I wish I had met you while you were the President. I wanted to work for you, but life had other plans for me. I wish that my mother could have met you before Alzheimer's robbed her of even knowing that you had served in office. I wish that my father would have listened to me about following protocol for getting you to send a letter of condolence to the family of the White House usher from his church who passed away last Fall (maybe we can still work something out). I wish that my daughter would be able to remember your time in office. I'm pleased that someone printed a picture of you for my Hub to pose next to in his office. I'm proud that I volunteered to get you elected in 2008.

Mr. President, I am 43 years old. If we are blessed to live another 43 years (or more), there is a lot more I hope to be able to say to you. So I will just end it right here.

Thank you.