Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Price of Respect

Doing my usual stroll down my Facebook news feed, I ran across a particularly interesting status posting; and I quote: “If you don’t get respect from your own kids, what makes you think a will give you some?” My initial reaction was to get offended and say a “grown man” is supposed to respect a woman regardless of the situation, but reality set in. First of all, do women really deserve respect at all costs, no matter what the action? Secondly, since its evident that mothers are no longer raising our children, who is?

Living in a world where respect is given with a grain of salt and classes are being taught on female empowerment, ladies are taking the whole equality thing to another level. Honestly, why on Earth would a 112 pound woman hit a 6’5”, 315-pound linebacker in the face? Because she is demanding respect, that’s why. Now, if said linebacker backhands her across her cheek Baby Boy-style, she will either: one) call the police or, two) grab a knife/gun/weapon. No matter what background you’re from, this is a double standard. Why do some women (lets not overgeneralize here) feel that their physical prowess over their mate translates into power? This is where I rebuke the urge to bring up anything Chris Brown-&-Rihanna debacle related.

In my opinion, VH1 and BET are doing poor jobs of releasing images and shows that are adolescent friendly; however, that’s not their job. Their ultimate goals are to produce shows that are both entertaining and shocking. The more shock-value shows adolescents watch, the less they are bewildered at every day life. So many teens are desensitized to tragedy and sadness now, it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to care about one another. For instance, ten years ago, if a teen was pregnant at the tender age of sixteen, she was shunned from her family, if not her whole community. Now she lands on the cover of InStyle and People Magazine. The message to teens is blatantly clear: if you want fame and fortune, don’t earn it. Just engage in reckless, damnable activities. Like hitting linebackers.

(Special thank you to Mike Bless for his status. I’m quoting you so it’s not stealing. Lol.)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Still a Controversy.

When I was in second grade, there was always a moment of silence before we got the day started; it could be used for prayer (to whomever you believe in) or to curse the quiz on times tables we had later that day. However, all this ceased when it was made clear that prayer in schools was "a violation of the separation of church and state." Coincidentally, when the prayer stopped, violence and behavioral issues exponentially increased.

A few years ago, Kanye West, one of the most controversial--and conceited--rappers to date, released a song called "Jesus Walks." He was the aim of much disapproval by those around him, pointing out in the song, "N*ggas can rap about anything except for Jesus..." His mentor, Jay-Z, wrote and produced a song on his fifth (and supposedly final) album called "Lucifer." On the track, he prays to God that he is forgiven for all his sins, as well of those sins of his fallen friends. The single never made it mainstream. This concept isn't just in the rap community. A pop song currently on the radio laments, "How we got into this mess/is it God's test?"

I say that to say this: prayer in schools is disconcerting, but pop culture sings about it regularly. That makes no sense. Today's youth is said to be easily influenced by the music they hear...however, why is the positive message overlooked, but the negative message spreads seemingly through osmosis. Was it coincidence that the woman that pushed so adamantly for the removal of school prayer died tragically, and soon, after the law was passed?

Is the separation of church and state separating the innocence from our youth? The saying goes that God looks after fools and babies, where do the new generation of prayerless souls fit?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Already Exhaled.

If you’ve ever seen the movie “Waiting to Exhale” consider yourself a participant in an almost cult-like following to man-bashing, women-empowering cinema. I personally don’t feel the two have to be correlated, but I digress. If you were under a rock in the nineties, the story is a harrowing tale of four single women in their 30s. The movie follows their ventures in dating, love and (for one character) divorce. However, the adventure ends sweetly (and a tad corny), in light of each attaining a personal victory in their respective lives. They’re gathered around a campfire on New Year’s Eve, toasting and celebrating, blah blah.
Personally, the character I identified the most with was the one I also despised the most. Savannah, who was portrayed by Whitney Houston, was dealing with a promotion in her career, as well as being a longtime lover’s mistress. Talk about having your plate full. Amidst all of this, she has her mother constantly nagging her to continue to make herself available for this scum because, and I quote, “He’s a good man…he’s just going through some things right now…”

This leads me to the aptly named “Waiting to Exhale syndrome.” Almost all women are guilty of it at one point or another: putting the needs of someone (well, for the sake of argument, a man) before your own.

One thing that reeeeeally pisses me off is telling a woman that she needs to keep her act together because she has a good man. What about vice versa? A woman is seen as faulty if she isn’t in a relationship, but a man is seen as “unattainable.” Why shouldn’t he have to keep himself on point to keep me?
In Savannah’s case, one thing was implied for sure: she didn’t know if she was strong enough to move on from a man that was once her everything. This is a scary thought for me—at what point does the cost of a relationship outweigh the benefits? At what point does a relationship warranty expire, even if you keep the receipt?

I wish there were customer service for this sort of thing.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Cracked-Out Piece of Sh*t

The facts: as many of you may have heard, Pastor Zachary Tims—the pastor of an 8,000+ member church in Florida—was found dead in a hotel Friday afternoon by housekeeping. However, the kicker is that he was found with a “white substance” enclosed in an envelope in his pocket. Police don’t think foul play is involved, and an autopsy is in the workings.

Problems I have with this story: one) The particular piece I read, which was a headlining story on the Wall Street Journal (you can read the story here) portrayed
the pastor as a cracked out piece of shit. I quote: “Tims grew up as a drug addict in Maryland when he was ‘miraculously saved’ according to his website and a memoir published in 2006.” I understand how this has relevance to the credibility of the story, but I honestly feel it could have been phrased better. Had this been a different minister (such as Billy Graham perhaps), the news story would have been prepared quite different.

Two) This article is just another reflection of how society forgives, but never forgets. The headline for this story isn’t simply for informing the members, and non-members, of the pastor’s death, but is done for shock value. It reads, “Pastor Zachary Tims Had Drugs When He Died in New York City Times Square Hotel.” A pastor dying in a hotel is enough, but because of his less-than-squeaky-clean past, the drugs had to be mentioned for people to read the article? I highly doubt it.

Three) I understand news sources must remain impartial, but certain parts of the story were irrelevant; they were just added to further point to drugs as the reason why the pastor died (i.e. a drug overdose). His divorce to his wife, his affair (“with a stripper,” the story so colorfully added), even the fact that one of his children had cerebral palsy. Really, WSJ? It was clear this story was front page news to you guys because it was another Black man, who just so happened to have a positive effect on his community, who fell victim to the drug epidemic.

Some tragedy isn’t newsworthy damnit. It’s tragic; leave it at that.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Negative Plus Negative Does Not Equal Positive

Lately, as usual, I’ve been doing some self-reflecting. Like many women who do an emotional and physical evaluation, I didn’t like what I saw. I won’t delve into the depths of my self-consciousness, but there were some pretty negative thoughts going on there. Interestingly enough, most women will hear a thousand compliments, but desperately cling onto that one put-down. Why is that? Why do most women have the talent of putting themselves down more than anyone they know? I’ve seen women who have more confidence in their little finger than I did in the whole right hemisphere of my brain…and I was subsequently ridden with jealousy. What was holding so many of us back from seeing the beauty that everyone else saw? Or more importantly, seeing our own self-worth?

Today, while in the oral surgeon’s office to get a wisdom tooth removed (which clearly didn’t happen; I wouldn’t be writing this) I saw the August cover of Redbook Magazine, which featured Jada Pinkett-Smith, the longtime faithful wife of actor Will Smith. The article covered Mrs. Smith’s many accolades, her “struggle” being a mother (living in LA as one half as one of the most prosperous couples in Hollywood is hardly a struggle), but most importantly some of her most valuable life lessons. One quote she used stood out to me (although I don’t remember it verbatim); she said that everyone makes mistakes but what are you gonna do to make it better? This can be applied to many things—in this case, one’s negative thinking. You could be having a bad day, everything’s going wrong, the mascara running down your face from the tears…but are you going to wallow in self-pity or get up and do something about it? Exactly.

Hopefully I can practice what I preach, circa 90s Barry White. Meh.

Jada’s August cover here.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Isn't That The Pot Calling the Kettle "Ethnic"?

One of the positive things about growing up in a large, diverse city like Jacksonville, Florida is that the numbers of opportunities to discover something new are endless. I further realized this when I was fortunate enough to visit Root Harmony, a hair salon that specialized in natural hair. The salon is run by LaTesea, a dread-coifed, beautiful, full figured woman. I had the pleasure of meeting her and her two gorgeous daughters (their names escape me, I apologize). It was there that I had my first real "salon experience:" where Black people sit around and talk about events, life lessons...and each other. It didn't matter what their backgrounds were, or their financial status; there was so much love in that room. And not the fake, selfish, narcissistic kind either. This was the kind that existed in the 70s--where Black people had a sense of pride and identity. It was refreshing to find these type of people still existed. What was most interesting to me was the caliber of woman (or man; it's a unisex shop) that came and sat their advanced psychoanalyses in her chair. It made me wonder was there an intelligence correlation to those Blacks that didn't chemically treat their hair. Did the relaxer destroy brain cells? The jury is still out on that one.

However, my issue came when I returned home, singing the praises of the shop to my mother. I told her some of the things we discussed, ranging from our shared hatred of cats to some Black people's sense of entitlement since we have had a Black president. My mother proceeded to tell me of a coworker that, in my mother's opinion was, "really Black." This wasn't in reference to her skin color, but rather her behavior. This has always puzzled can someone "act their color"? I proceeded to correct my mother and give her a more politically correct term like "ethnic" or "more culturally inclined."

Where is our race's accountability? Where is the person to correct my mom's coworker who, undoubtedly is putting down her race, enumerating the ills of the future of us as a people? Civil rights leaders (and followers) fought and died for our little piece of the Declaration of Independence. You know the one. Sadly, now we yearn to be singled out because our president is Black (even if our Lambo is blue or not). Have our needs as a race generationally changed or are we, subsequently, culturally confused?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Low Self-Esteem = Prey for the Sharks

Just like a shark can smell blood from three miles away, it seems that men can smell a woman with low self esteem from even farther. It is apparently given off in pheromones and can be sensed by the males frontal lobe. (Don't Google that; I just made it up to sound smarter.)

Which brings me to the question: why do women have low self-esteem in the first place? Some have horrific adolescent experiences where grade school children have no registered emotion of hurting someone else's feelings and incessantly pick on someone's weight, height, etc. You would think that people grow out of that, right? Well some don't, and I can attest to that. I still am self conscious of my bust size, my smile, even the size of my feet. A better question still--do these grade school kids grow up physically but subconsciously remain those grade school adults, now with an agenda to pick on people? Whatever that agenda may be: financial class, jealously, or *gasp* because that person has low self-esteem themselves.

Another culprit is mass media as a whole. Companies and grass-roots movements are desperately trying to rid women all over of these screwed-up, innate paradigms that models are skinny, tall and possess one eating disorder or another. Other websites prove to show what some celebrities look like without Photoshop, make-up and other image-altering products. Is this helping young girls have better self-image and discern the real from the fake? The jury is still out on that one.

The obvious solution: love yourself. Point. Blank. Period. Whether you're a size 6 or 16. But until then, stay out of shark-infested waters.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Overreacting Much?

News of ten year old little Thylane Loubry Blondeau, a ten year old French girl, has had her face splattered all over international news. What the hell can a ten year old do to be featured in news briefs all over the world? Pose for French Vogue, that's what.
Recently becoming a news headliner all over the world, this young model has been depicted as being "sexualized" by not only the photographer and the magazine, but by her mother, as well. American journalists have been crying that spreads (no pun intended) like this are proverbial nesting grounds for pedophiles everywhere. In one picture, she has her coif teased and pinned sky high, with a seductive pout and donning couture and high heels. Her mother, Veronika Loubry, has defended the shoot, claiming it to be artistic.

The first issue I have with this whole thing is French models are recruited out of the crib. If they want to encourage misguided views on body image, promote eating disorders and subject young women to a paradigm of beauty that they can never acheive, go ahead. Why is this America's problem? France doesn't care; neither should we. There have been questionable photoshoots of preteens since forever; why do we care so much?

Another issue I have, stemming from America poking its nose where it doesn't belong, is: don't we have enough problems to deal with, sans
a ten year old making front page news? How about we get out of debt, lower the unemployment rate, and for God's sake, stop worrying about what Kate Middleton is doing.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Hefty, Hefty, Hefty!

The issue of weight control is evident in Hollywood more than ever. In the 60s and 70s, curves abounded; no one cared if you were a size 5 or size 15. Body image in entertainment was more on the mesomorphic side because that's what the average person looked like. However, culture is looking at body image in a inversed mirror--the fatter normal people get, the skinnier are the people who represent us in media. In turn, the number of plastic surgeries (mainly in the areas of liposuction) has increased exponentially. What does this say about our self esteem? Not just women either; the slimmer jeans designed for males (i.e. skinny jeans) have made guys self conscious about their bods too.

So what happened to people just losing weight to be healthy? Recently, I became more aware that my mother was obese. Not to the point where she needed a Hoveround or anything, but where her knees and back were aching after less than an hour of standing. The idea crossed my mind: what if that's not all that's wrong, but she's not telling me? And true to my brain's fashion, my psychoanalysis ran wild and ended at the idea of my mother having a heart attack in church on the offchance day that her bra and panties didn't match. And that's how people would remember her. In short, I told her I feared for her health. With my help she completely changed her meal portions, her workout plan, and her hydration levels. The other day she was deemed healthy by the doctor even though she wasn't a size 2.

Where does that leave all the models out there surviving on "the supermodel diet"? The one where one survives on celery sticks, water and cigarettes? Or at the other end of the spectrum--those actresses who burst onto the scene with a endomorphic body type, but now what to lose weight to get different, "non-fat-girl" roles? Today's culture is so instant, I-Want-Everything-Now...who's gonna be concerned with their lives, and bodies, twenty years down the line?

Star Jones before and after her gastric bypass. Ew.

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Star Is Born...

It strikes me as interesting whenever people seek to explain how some people rise into fame and stardom. A common cliche is that people say, "...and on this day a star was born." Jay-Z even wrote a song about it, in which he enumerated many talented rappers of our time.

"Hey, Snoop Dogg did, Nelly came down
Facemob kept the ghetto for the H-Town
Luda moved digits after he moved bitches
Drake's up next, see what he do wit it

So where does this leave me? I don't personally see myself as "star" material...I'm self-conscious, terrified of meeting new people, and am as anti-social as a Libra can possibly get. But is that the key? That people who are stars are simply so because they just are? Is it impossible to "stop one's shine" if the stardom is innately proven, time after time? When it comes to actual astronomic, scientific facts, they say a star is born "when the interstellar matter in gas clouds...compresses and fuses," according to the Scientific American. I assume this was not how Angelina Jolie or Denzel Washington came into being. Or is it? The interstellar matter of their lives finally compressed and fused their talent and spark into existence. So maybe I do stand a chance.

Jay-Z's "A Star is Born" here: