Friday, March 29, 2019

When Moms Attack

Somebody's Mom wrote this open letter to the women at Notre Dame about their attire. There was the inevitable backlash in the form of a student protest wherein the women on campus wore the offending item and it garnered international media attention. I saw all of this and decided to write about the matter because I feel the need to take a definitive stand on an issue that has bothered me for quite some time. So here goes:
Leggings are not pants.

But (and of course, that is the issue...butts on display), leggings are increasingly worn as such, so whether I declare them to be pants or not, I'm guessing no one cares what I or that good Catholic Mom of four sons thinks.

And that could be the end of the entire matter, because in the past when I first made that statement and even went so far as to declare my love for the older lady derivative of leggings (yoga pants, which essentially are leggings that flare below the knees), people were only just beginning to bring leggings back from the 90s. People were also wearing pajamas in public and basketball jerseys as dresses. Who knew?

I certainly didn't know that I would get pregnant in a few years and would need to wear leggings and/or maternity jeans practically everyday. I also did not foresee how afterwards, my wardrobe would lean heavily in the athleisure direction because of its versatility. Workout clothes are preferable to bulky sweats and are easier to clean (trust me on that point). And once one realizes that baby vomit and poop are going to become central to one's life for the next few years, then one reconsiders past declarations about clothing that one finds herself living and sleeping in on a daily basis.

This past Christmas, I wandered into a store at my local mall called Its All Leggings. I looked around at the offerings and considered whether I wanted to own a pair of leggings with a reindeer pattern or with "ho ho ho" written along the side. The time I spent in that store was brief because that imaginary head pop that I have been getting from my mother lately came at me, so I ducked and bolted out of there. A few days later I was in DSW trying on a pair of Uggs, but that time, my mother's imaginary hand smacked me back into reality.

My mother, who because of her illness now lives in athleisure (because it is versatile and comfortable and easy to clean) would NEVER, EVER have been seen in leggings or Ugg boots in public. This was a woman who rarely wore sneakers, so it is no surprise that her opinions on appropriate public attire have physically haunted me. I've written about that before too, which is why I clearly heard her voice telling me to back away from the tacky leggings and to put those ugly furry boots back in the box. 'That is NOT how I raised you!'

'But Ma', I countered, 'leggings are so comfortable and these boots are so warm, and in the winter when I need to take the Kid to school, it would be so much easier in the mornings.' But her voice was unrelenting. 'You heard me. Walk away!'

I share that not to offer an opinion on the pairing of patterned leggings and Uggs, but to point out that mothers can be vicious.

In all seriousness, I refuse to cosign with the Notre Dame mom for the same reason why I refuse to believe that men cannot take responsibility for their own behavior. As the mother of a daughter whose entire wardrobe consists of leggings (because that is what every store sells for young girls), I expect that her attitude will be much different than mine. For her, leggings are pants, which is why we fight on those mornings when she would rather wear a dress. Yet for the sake of modesty, her school requires that she wears leggings or shorts underneath her dresses. (Ironic, right?)

Now I heeded the voice of my mother for a different reason: leggings paired with Uggs denote a certain fashion that despite the obvious comfort and convenience, is not a look that I need to adopt at this stage of my life. That is not a criticism, just an acknowledgment that the Notre Dame Mom, in her sideways attempt at preaching women's empowerment, is correct in suggesting that how we choose to dress communicates certain messages.

However, leggings worn by college students on campus (and the Basilica is located on the campus of Catholic University), are not assertions of sexuality. Nor are the leggings worn by half-awake moms during school drop off. Nor are the leggings worn by women on jogging trails, at spin class, or in Zumba. Nor are the leggings I've worn to sit outside of my daughter's dance class. Because of the ubiquity of athleisure generally, I would argue that leggings worn in most daily settings are the absolute opposite of sexy. They are basic...

Thus, to all of the Catholic mothers and anyone else who feels assaulted by the sight of young women dressed in leggings, here is some advice from my Baptist mother: 'Walk away.'

Thursday, March 28, 2019

The Parent Trap

It was a week ago that a blogger I 'know' in the social media sense wrote this piece about motherhood, which I re-posted to one of my support groups on Facebook. In addition to the truths she shared, it was great to see how this piece resonated with some of the women in the group. I also ended up discussing the piece with another mother later that week, which made two immediate impressions on me: (a) I am overwhelmed by one child, so I can only imagine having to deal with three; and (b) high five for writing something that really spoke to some of the challenges of parenthood.

This week, another mother I 'know' posted a different piece from the perspective of a toddler...

Sure, being a toddler in an adult world can be challenging, but after a week when I have had to carry my child kicking and screaming from public spaces three times (twice in one day after I started to write this piece)...nah, I can't relate to the difficulties of being a toddler.

No, I can't relate when the reasons for these spirited outbursts are mysterious and random. As in, why are you rolling around on the floor in the middle of the church lobby? Why are you refusing to let go of the shopping cart now that we are finished in this store? Why are you throwing clothes that I haven't paid for yet on the floor? Why did you refuse to go into the store, then demand to go into the store, and then have to be carried out of the store? What makes you so cranky after sleeping for ten hours straight? Why do you get to wake up in a bad mood and then refuse to put on underwear two days in a row?

Why the phuck is my life being dictated by the mood swings of this irrational little person that I brought into the world??? Seriously, I gave birth after 40 so what else does the world expect from me? My theory--I am supposed to spend the next fifteen years engaged in peace negotiations with a terrorist, which is essentially setting me up for failure.

When I started on this piece in my head on Sunday after a particularly tumultuous episode (one that apparently left her exhausted), I intended to lament my poor performance in diffusing the after-church tantrum. It occurred on the walk from the bathroom to the fellowship hall, because I had the temerity to need to pee after service. Maybe next time I should wear adult diapers...God forbid she doesn't get a cookie or a dry piece of cake with a cup of church punch. And as she commenced to rolling around on the floor in agony outside of the fellowship hall, everyone who passed by just shook their heads and offered that same look of parental resignation.

I've been told that this is just a phase that passes. And I believe that because I stopped acting like an asshole years ago and my mother went on to have two more children. Then I turned 12.

Which is why I believe it was the spirit of my mother who smacked me in the back of my head (like she did often when I was a kid) in an effort to snap me out of the illusion that I am the bad actor here. I may not be Jo Frost the British Supernanny, but I am definitely not the henpecked Daddy who can't say no to his Veruca Salt.

I love this child. I hate the toddler phase. I expect that if we make it to adolescence, I will hate that phase as well. So maybe that is the trap--our fierce love helps us to forget the truly terrible nonsense they can unleash without warning. Literally moments after her abusive tantrum, she apologizes then assures me that everything will be ok if I just breathe...

Really now?

Friday, March 15, 2019

Stealing Harvard and other Hypocritical Isht

You know what is familiar about the Operation Varsity Blues cheating scandal that has people all fake mad and upset (because it is really envy)? The fact that this was more or less the plot of two movies made back in 2002 called Orange County and Stealing Harvard, and an episode of Desperate Housewives (and probably a lost episode of Full House). Life imitates art.

I won't even waste your time by reposting or linking to the long-ish FB vent I wrote the other day because being a Black woman expressing her pent up outrage over systematic inequality is literally just another day in the neighborhood. What else is new?

However, since I'm revisiting movies lately, there is a scene near the end of Bad Santa when Marcus the Elf is about to shoot Willie the Santa at the end of the big heist. Willie has just succeeded in opening the store safe, when he looks up to the barrel of Marcus's gun pointed in his face. Right before the heroic anticlimax, Willie poses the metaphorical question we are all asking with respect to this scandal:

Why do y'all need all this isht? Don't you already have enough? Or as applied in the current context: Why do people who already have every advantage in the world need to cheat to gain even more advantages? These are metaphorical and rhetorical questions for sure, because the answer is because (which isn't an answer, but in this case, you just need to take my word for it). Some people are just compelled to do whatever it takes to stay on top, even if it is the top of the trash heap.

The hypocrisy of this scandal is not merely the obvious comparison to the case of Kelly Williams-Bolar, the Black mother who went to jail for using a relative's address to enroll her children in school. Nor is it similarly invoked by the high-profile indictments of teachers and administrators who were accused of changing students' answers on standardized tests. Illegal immigration in the form of crossing the border without documentation has always been a misdemeanor, but now we suddenly need a wall. In each case, we are told that these transgressions undermine the integrity of the system.

The hypocrisy exists in our use of the word integrity. How can there be integrity in a corrupt system?

Where is the integrity in a system that tolerates inequity in the funding formulas for public school districts based on residency? Where is the integrity in a system that conditions a working professional's job security to student achievement on tests someone else can get paid to take? Where is the integrity in maintaining a hopelessly backlogged immigration process? How is there any integrity in a system where the rules only seem to apply when used against certain people (such as people of color, which we're not supposed to see because we're a nation that doesn't see color)?

We shouldn't consider race in college admissions because a handful of white applicants feel self-conscious about attending their second choice schools. But we can save a seat for the son of the lady who guest starred on a few episodes of  Law & Order because her check cleared and no one will notice if he quits the crew team after one practice. As long as his mom wears the sweatshirt on her perp walk the red carpet, we can call it product placement. No need to level the playing field if he isn't really on the field.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Please Stand By

I am typing this from my old laptop. It is amazing that after four years of sitting idle in a computer bag in my basement, this thing actually still works! It is still heavy as a law book, which is probably just a spoiled brat way of saying, wow computers used to be really heavy. And better made. Because the only thing wrong with this computer (knock on wood), is speed.

To take you back in time to get an idea of why this is such a big deal, I must have been say, six months preggo when my brother gave me a laptop that he received for attending a workshop. At the same time, the Hub had expressed his desire that I get a lighter laptop. And around the same time, I had been told by the technicians at a major electronics store that this dear old laptop was not only heavy but also obsolete at nearly seven (7) years old. It had already undergone a major repair to its hard drive and its operating system was the lovely buggy Vista, so you can only imagine.

Little brother gave me the laptop, which was light enough to carry with one hand. It had a speedy new OS. It had battery life. It didn't come with an AC adaptor that was larger than a tissue box. And it cost us nothing. I had the Kid. You're pretty much caught up.

Fast forward to this past January when the Hub once again declared that I needed a new laptop. His reason--his new laptop was even lighter than mine. But we have a kid in preschool, I said, so it can wait (cue the ironic music). Also, if you know anything about me, I am the Queen of holding onto electronic gadgets until they fall apart. So...


The affable computer tech who extracted my data for a reasonable fee laughed for a least five minutes, then he asked if I had dropped it off a 12-foot wall. When I explained to him how it broke down to the exposed wires through normal wear and tear, he then noted that the company had stopped making computers the year I got that one for free. So that one definitely goes to the landfill.

But killing a laptop isn't the craziest thing to happen to me. That would be coming down with the flu mere days after the Hub got his flu shot. That would also be having a three-year old mutant child serve as the carrier of said flu that the Hub just narrowly escaped, and then barely being affected by it herself. She has been clingy and has had a bad cough. On the other hand, I am barely alive.

Initially, I didn't think this was the flu because some of my symptoms read like pneumonia. A visit to the urgent care confirmed the flu, so I stayed home from several activities and thought that I felt fine enough to tackle a few loads of laundry. And that nearly killed me. That might seem like hyperbole, but I have never flu-lapsed before, so when I tell you that I ended up back in bed on Monday evening feeling like I had been hit by a sonic boom, I am not exaggerating. I had intermittent chills and hot flashes, no appetite for food or water, hallucinations, and everything hurt. I got winded just trying to find a more comfortable position for moaning in bed.

Today is Thursday, and I am just feeling strong enough to carry this heavy-ass laptop up from the basement.

In the meantime, all of the stuff that I was supposed to do has been on hold. I am now weeks behind on my #BlackonBroadway series because I was sick for two Wednesdays straight. I haven't gone by to visit my parents because I could actually kill them. I won't give you a list, but I will never doubt the warnings about flu shots again. It is literally right up there with always back up your data.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Toppling Idols

I watched the Oprah interview with the two men who have accused Michael Jackson of having molested them as children. I am giving fair warning to anyone reading this (with sentiments either way) that I understand whatever position you take with respect to these charges, but I implore you to be open-minded. This is a place that I don't wish to be. And I say this after believing that I have generally been consistent with my support for victims of sexual violence...except with respect to Michael Jackson. So please bear with me as I try to process what I saw, how I feel, and why I am all over the place.

I did NOT watch the documentary. Not yet.

Whenever it was announced that there was to be a documentary, I remember wondering who these men were. Initial news reports revealed their identities and offered up certain troubling details of their stories, so then my assumption was that this effort related to the lawsuits they had filed against the estate. And it made me sad because it seemed as if this question about Jackson's interactions with children would never die even as he himself had been dead for nearly ten years. I worried about having to endure yet another trial, only this time posthumously. It made me wonder if there would be enough goodwill left to challenge accusations in an era of reckoning that has so far toppled living icons such as R. Kelly and Bill Cosby. Could a dead man survive #metoo?

This is not my attempt to work through whether I believe these men's stories. I have not watched the film, and I am still mulling when I will do so. This is my attempt to explain why it is necessary for me to accept certain possibilities with respect to someone I love (present tense). Therefore, I won't link back to any past tributes I have written about MJ, nor will I be making any retractions. Right now, I am just musing out loud...

When I wrote this on the Facebook page on Sunday night before the film aired, I had already decided that Leaving Neverland would be too much to absorb at this time, coming weeks after the Surviving R. Kelly docu-series aired in January. I won't go so far as to suggest that I was traumatized by watching that, but by the last two episodes, I was emotionally drained. Then I have been disheartened by the backlash that gained traction on social media using the hashtag #firstthem to suggest that the prosecutions of sexual abusers has been racially motivated. Nevermind that Harvey Weinstein is currently under indictment and is also the subject of a damning documentary, to the #firstthem crowd, the faces of sexual abuse have been Black icons who flew too close to the sun.

I refuse to give any legitimacy to that nonsense, yet I can see how this documentary contributes to the C-O-N-spiracy as we approach that milestone this summer of the tenth year since MJ died. Who knows what manner of elaborate tributes were being planned (including whatever I would settle on as an appropriate remembrance for this space)? How many unreleased remastered gems were awaiting the green light? What unique concepts had yet to be considered for possible reissues of his greatest hits? How much more money could Michael Jackson earn from the grave?

Well, I doubt we'll ever know that now. The response to Leaving Neverland has polarized us along somewhat predictable lines, but it also ensures that efforts to capitalize on MJ's legacy will be deemed too risky to pursue. His music is already being pulled from radio station playlists in Canada, and a statue has been taken down in Manchester, England. I expect that there will be some vandalism, endless debates, and various other forms of public outcry that will make it untenable for his fans and defenders to justify not questioning that allegiance--whether these allegations are true or not.

Hence, my own reckoning: I chose to watch the Oprah interview instead of the film for what I believe were very logical and significant reasons. First, Oprah dedicated 217 episodes of her talk show to addressing sexual abuse. Having been a victim of childhood sexual abuse herself, she often used her show as a platform to confront this very disturbing and destructive issue. Second, she interviewed Michael Jackson during his lifetime; however, it was before the first allegations were made against him. For whatever reason, he never sat down with her again, so when she offered her impressions of that interview years later, I noted how she did not address the allegations in her reflections because she was clearly still a fan. Third, knowing the backlash she would face by giving a platform to the victims (and possibly having to face the wrath of the Jackson family), she did so anyway.

Fourth, I am sensitive to the damage that can be done by what people have been calling 'mere' allegations of abuse, but I am more devastated by the disastrous consequences of not listening to victims. There are entire institutions in our society that have condoned abuse in the name of protecting the powerful (with the Catholic Church as a prime example). As such, millions of victims suffer in silent shame that manifests in a never-ending cycle of perpetuating that abuse on others, or by becoming complicit bystanders and enablers.

Finally, when I look at those the young faces that hearken back thirty years, I am reminded of getting permission to stay up past my bedtime to watch the Thriller video because I was ten years old. A child. Then reality hits me--these accusers were my age when they were part of a grown man's entourage. CHILDREN.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

BBW Tea Party: Collecting Tokens

I wasn't even paying close attention to the Michael Cohen hearings because I knew it was going to be yet another parade of insanity in this circus that is supposed to be our government lately. It started on an off-note of procedural nonsense that foretold how quickly the rest of the day would descend into utter madness. By the time Rep. Rashida Tlaib got her chance to give her opening statement, I was no longer watching (listening in on the radio), but I heard the exasperation in her voice--a mix of impatience and frustration over the stunt pulled by Rep. Mark Meadows earlier in the day. Because this scene was abso-fucking ridiculous:

And I knew that the backlash would be swift. Because a woman of color who calls out racism is bound to be branded as racist herself, especially when the person offended by her statement has Black people in his family to prove otherwise. (And also because Tlaib and at least two of her colleagues, Reps. Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have targets on their backs, so everything they say gets parsed in a concerted effort to discredit them. But we shall address that at another time.)

But seriously, let's talk about tokenism and how it differs from affirmative action, diversity initiatives, interracial marriage, trans-racial adoption, non-traditional casting, voting for Barack Obama, and every other effort that white people have made in the past to prove that racism officially ended. I don't know the year of its official demise, but according to all of the sociologists who know these things and use Twitter to enlighten the masses of their folly, racism only exists because Blacks and other marginalized people refuse to take their word for it.

Thus, trotting out a Black woman who supports the current President is perfectly acceptable to counter the claim that he is racist because the best way to prove that unicorns exists is to produce a unicorn, right? It is racist, however, to notice that this Black woman was asked to stand in front of America as proof that the current President isn't racist, despite ALL of the evidence to the contrary...

I don't know Lynne Patton personally (thereby debunking another assumption about Black people all knowing each other), so I won't speak for her or try to understand why she agreed to do this. I'm guessing the conversation that preceded her appearance at this hearing went something like this:
Meadows: Hey Lynne, what are you doing tomorrow?
Patton: Oh, I'll be at work, making America great again. How about you?
Meadows: Me too. Say, do you want to grab coffee and maybe stand up at this hearing tomorrow where I plan to use you as proof that Donald Trump isn't a racist?
Patton: Sure, Mike. Do you need me to prepare testimony or bring any evidence?
Meadows: Nah, just wear your good hair.
Now how is her existence as one of the few remaining Black women whom Trump has yet to insult any different than all of the aforementioned efforts that white people have made at fixing racism? Doesn't affirmative action, which seeks to redress exclusionary admission and hiring practices, assure us that folks like Ms. Patton are qualified to be in the position she holds in the Administration? Don't we like the diversity initiatives that promote random Black people from within the Trump Organization to become visible members of the GOP? When Mark Meadows references his family members, we believe that he loves them because love conquers all, even the irrational birtherism that propelled him to office. And we already know how electing this nation's first Black President practically erased every vestige of systematic racism and oppression...

So where do we get off calling her a token?

And why are we so skeptical of well-meaning efforts to debunk the persistence of racism? In the post-Obama era, overt displays of racism are practically unheard of, so why are we making so much hay of the subtler, inadvertent microaggressions? Lynne Patton came voluntarily and stood there silently because she wanted to be there, and we should take her word for it. If she was in any way objectified, our being offended on her behalf is just wasted energy. She has the right to stand up on that auction block stage like an NAACP Image Award because the fact that she chose to be there is progress.