Monthly Archives: December 2010

Maimed for Beauty

 

(Slhore trans: Slut + whore)

In ‘primitive’ cultures around the world, women disfigure themselves in the name of beauty. We have our necks stretched with copper/brass coils in Thailand; our lips stretched with clay and/or wood plates in parts of Africa and South America; nicked our faces, bellies and backs with razors in the Sudan with the purpose of producing a 3D keloid kaleidoscope – on and on. By comparison, Western beauty rituals are child’s play when juxtaposed to the practices of our sisters in less developed countries. An hour after a good shampoo, hair coloring and a pedicure, we’ve declared ourselves ‘transformed’. We generally don’t disfigure ourselves in the name of beauty – or so I thought until last night.

My co-worker Monique is a stunning woman. She has natural hair that she keeps pressed that exhibits a natural shine and bounce that I rarely see. Her skin is flawless. Her eyebrows are perfectly arched. She works out and is in prime shape. She has 4 kids (just like me, although the oldest is in college) and takes pride in maintaining her physical appearance now that her kids don’t require so much attention. Since my kids are still very young and the youngest is still waking up in the middle of the night, which leaves me too tired to go to the gym, which also leaves me fat with oily skin, I decided to emulate Monique in the one way I could…I went to get my eyebrows done last night.

I’ve been doing my brows for years: From using a raw razor blade in my dorm room, to self-applying hot wax to get some semblance of shape, I’ve done it all. Now that I’m a working woman, I’ve eschewed all those techniques and allowed the professionals – my Vietnamese sisters – to take over the task of removing my unwanted follicles. For the last 6 years, Dani Loung (which of course is NOT her real name – it’s Doung Loung) or some member of her staff has taken care of my brows. 90% of the time they get it right. I come back because of the ambiance and the service. But last night, a new member of staff, some girl I have never seen before, did my eyebrows for the first time. What happened when she was done was a first as well.

That slhore burnt me!

Oh she greeted me nicely enough, bowing and smiling as she led me to her torture chamber like an unsuspecting virgin about to endure a 20 minute gang rape. She chatted gaily about my new baby and asked me about my new job. Being chatty myself, I happily answered all her questions. In the midst of our discourse, I felt a sharp sting on the my eye lid and then another close to my tear duct. As she carefully applied hot wax to the majority of my face, I realized that she was also applying it to areas where there was no hair at all – like MY EYE LID! I lay there frozen in horror, praying that what I thought was happening truly was not happening.

When she was done, she put some cold antiseptic on a cotton ball and began to stroke my eyes roughly. I stiffened and finally cried out.

“Oh…dat hurt yew?” she asked innocently.

“Yes,” I yelped. “It burns!”

“Oh. I put some t’ing on, make it feel better.”

She applied something else that burned even worse.

“Dat betta?”

I nodded yes, just so she wouldn’t try to ‘fix’ it with something that would pain me worse.

When I got up from the chair, she led me to the register to pay.

“OK. Dat gonna be twenny dolla,” she chirped with a charming smile.

I balked.

“Dani,” she whispered harshly, trying to get her attention. “Look at my face.”

Dani looked up from the computer screen and glanced at my throbbing red eye. She and newbie murmured in Vietnamese. She finally spoke to me.

“Dat happen because you skin dry. Sometimes the wax do dat because you skin too dry.”

“So what should I put on it?”

“Uhhh…maybe some Vaseline? But if it not get betta, you come back, okay baby?”

Vaseline? Come back? For what?? I’ll be frikkin’ blind by then! I looked at her coldly through what was left of socket.

“Okay, Dani.”

I paid them and left. Today, my skin has gone from beet red, to plum purple. In a day, I’m certain my lids will be tar black as they heal from the trauma. This is so wrong. I just wanted to be beautiful dammit!

No more hot wax near the eyeballs for me. Uh uh. For the 2011, I’m taking my $10 and going straight to Little India so Lalitha and dem can thread me up. Dani will never have the chance to blind this Black girl again!

Have you ever been defaced for the sake of beauty?

Contractor Status

Say what you will about being a contractor: It’s short term; they can cut your project at any time; it’s unstable; there are no health benefits; blah blah BLAH! For all the negatives, I can rebut with a good number of positives: The autonomy, the freedom to leave if the job sucks, the ability to work as many hours as you want (and want to bill) in a given day. All of these are great, but pale in comparison to one of the biggest perks of having contractor status – that being the ability to hover above the craziness of office politics.

I had forgotten just how deep the toxic slurry gets within America’s cubicle mazes! Allow me to share a tale of treachery and duplicity that I witness every morning once I take my seat in my open cube.

(*The names of the subjects in this tale have been changed to protect my job)

I work (contract) for a company that manufactures industrial equipment and pneumonic devices. In such a technical arena, you would expect to find graduates from the state’s leading technology institutes…like Georgia Tech. This being Georgia, you will of course be subjected to the company of persons who graduated from UGA as well. It is the graduates of the latter institution who have proven to lack any form of social grace.

*Bethany, Brittney, Mark and Tyler are all members of the electronic support team.  Luke is their project manager. Brittney, Mark and Tyler all hate Bethany, whose only crime so far as I can tell has been to come into work every day. Bethany, who has been with the company longer than anyone else on the team, used to be the Director’s personal assistant, and rose through the ranks to become sales support. She is of course favored by the director, who has “grown her” into this position. She’s also cute and blond. I suppose this is the source of Brittney’s ire, who makes it a point to inform anyone who will listen that Bethany is not a hard worker, who spends all day on the phone and never gets any work done. Tyler and Mark in turn make it a point to point out any appearance of a transgression in order to get Brittney going in that whiny/ know-it-all/ just outta college brunette girl voice I have come to hate.

Take last week for example.

The director likes to send out Christmas cards to customers every year. Bethany, who is just as overloaded with work as anyone else on the team went out to buy the cards, but did not have time to sign and address them that day. Somehow, Brittney got a hold of the stack of cards and began addressing them.

“Why are we doing these stupid cards anyways?” she bitched.

“Because Martin used to think they were a good idea,” explained Bethany. “Although after this year, he will probably stop.”

Bethany then left to go get a postal delivery box from the mail room. As soon as she was out of earshot, Mark piped up.

“You know Brittney, since you’re the one sitting here addressing all these envelopes, you outta be the one to get all the credit,” he prompted.

“She’s so stupid,” sassed Brittney. “This is just one more thing that she slacked off on that I have to cover. My life would just be so much better if she never came in.”

For real? Your LIFE would be better if she never came in? C’mon Brit.

All day long, Tyler, Mark and Brittney Skype/chat with each other to berate poor Bethany for the most minor of incidences. Something as little as her sending a text message to the team to inform them that she’ll be an hour late coming into work is a catalyst for a 45 minute bitch session.

“Betcha she won’t come in for an hour and a half!”

“Could she not have sent that message 15 minutes before hand?”

“I was so annoyed when I got that text!”

Ugh.

I, being a contractor, have no allegiances to anyone in the group or the company. The only person I am allied to is the guy who signs my time card. For him, I will shuck, jig and jive two blocks down the road if I need to.  Everyone else is free to tear each other apart without my input or intervention. Am I going to tell Bethany that her team is plotting to get her fired? Heck no! But I’ll feel really bad for her when it happens though. She seems like a nice enough girl.

At the end of the day, I truly hope that these people come to realize that it’s not that deep. We’re just building pressure gauges here folks, not eradicating world hunger. There’s no need to get your collective panties in such a wad and proceed on a viral hate campaign against your fellow co-workers!

Hey you – if you’re sitting in a cube, surrounded by cut throat mercenaries, can you feel me??

On Screen!

Our house must’ve been one of the few homes in America that did not have a gaming system.  Well, that’s not entirely true. Last Christmas, my husband gleefully brought home his circa 1992 Nintendo gaming console (complete with a vintage Street Fighter cartridge) that had been holed up in his parents’ basement in Ohio for the last 19+ years. Prior to that, our gaming was restricted to sporadic games of solitaire on the PC.

This weekend, all of that changed when my brother and sister bought us an Xbox Kinect.

Sweet heavenly mercy.

Upon opening the box on Christmas morning, my husband set about the business of getting his parents’ media room wired for the Kinect. I saw neither him nor my children for the remainder of the day, save for the 10 minutes they came into the kitchen requesting juice or a roll where I sat watching as many movies alone as I could. From the next room I heard gleeful squeals and doleful requests.

“Git ‘im Daddy!”

“Punch ‘im!”

“My turn!! My turn!!!”

“Can I have a turn please too?”

“How do I do this?”  

I have never been much of a gamer, so I was content to let Marshall and the girls have at it – and so they did…for 9 straight hours.

Yesterday, we left my in-law’s house and arrived in Atlanta after battling icy highway roads and dodging a carcass casserole of dead deer, foxes and dog bodies that littered the roads. It was a 9 hour ordeal.  An hour after we’d been home and gotten a little bit to eat, my kids asked if we could set up the Wii.

“It’s a Kinect,” I retorted. I was irritated from sitting behind a wheel with a water-logged bladder for the last 2 hours of our trip. “Ask your Daddy to set it up. I don’t know how.”

Marshall dutifully rewired all the pieces while I retired upstairs to watch Masterpiece Theater. My viewing was interrupted by thunderous sound effects and kindergarten giggles and screams of WHOA! Marshall trudged up the stairs 20 minutes later, inviting me to come see this game. Apparently, I didn’t move fast or reply enough, and he scurried off before I could say whether or not I’d be joining them. When I got to the living room, Nadjah was on her feet asking about map or some such nonsense. I watched her and Marshall play Kinect Adventures, their arms outstretched while they navigated a phantom row boat. They were both beaming.

“You wanna try, Mommy?”

“Sure. Why not.”

When I was a kid, we had a Nintendo too. My favorite games were Duck Hunt and Tetris. Incidentally, those were my parents’ favorite games as well. They couldn’t quite grasp Super Mario (it was ‘too fast’), and I was always happy to administer a shellacking to my elders, a rush coursing over my by body via an impressive high score.

Kinect is no Tetris.

By the end of the hour my heart rate was up and my biceps were sore. I was actually working out. Well, I would’ve been if I hadn’t popped a 250 calorie laden Ferrero Rocher in my mouth after every session. At 10:30, 2 hours after everyone’s bedtime, I found myself wired and thinking about the Kinect all night. What games would I purchase for it? When could I sneak in time to play? Who could I compete against?!? I see the beginning of compulsive behavior.

My siblings and I are geeks in cool kids clothing (although I’m far cooler). The one thing I’m looking forward to is kinecting with them via the TV with the chat option, just like that do on Star Trek. How frikkin’ cool is that? I have to get my burgundy Capt. Picard unitard, complete with a Star Fleet insignia. If I’m to parley with my peers and shout “On screen!” to my subordinates, it’s imperative to look the part, is it not?

The Origins of Ol’ St Nick

I have no words. Ladies and Gentlemen, from the mind of my little brother, Sami Gyekye, I present to you this intriguing Christmas tale: The birth of Santa Clause.

On the very first Christmas, four Wise Men set off to deliver gifts to the baby Jesus. One of them read the memo wrong and went to the North Pole instead of following the North Star. There he found the evil Frost Queen and band of evil magi…cal Elf minions. As this was the first man she had encountered in centuries, she had her Elves capture him and forced him to marry her. “Oh, no”, he pleaded, “I must deliver my gift to a very special child today, please let me go.”

“Fine”, she responded. “But you will have to return to me once your quest is complete.”

To ensure this, she place upon him a magical, red suit which was impossible to remove. If he was not to return to her by the rising of the sun the next day, it would steadily get hotter and hotter, and periodically shock him until he did return. Agreeing to her terms, he picked up his gift and began to board her magical G6 elf jet. “What do you think you’re doing?,” she asked, “there’s no way you’re taking my jet out without me.” For her own personal amusement she conjured up a sleigh and some flying reindeer and sent him on his way. “This is some bull”, he exclaimed as he flew off. “Reindeer don’t even live up here in the North Pole. If I couldn’t take the jet, at least she could have had me drawn through the sky by something cooler.” Magical polar bears perhaps? “That ho, that ho, that ho, ho, ho…….

And thus began the legend of the man in the red suit who has acquired many aliases over time. So when you open your gifts today, say a prayer for the lost Wise Man who leaves the ice fortress once a year to deliver his gift of Joy to the world.

Happy Birthday Baby Jesus.

Your Confidence is a Fragrance

Men despise things that are easily acquired – The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana

Ladies: If your confidence is a fragrance, then your desperation is a stench. This is a loose deduction from the above statement, but you’ll see where I’m going with this pretty quickly.

There are few things more frustrating than watching a friend make an absolute fool of herself for the sake of a man. I’ve mentioned it in previous posts that I have a friend who, while we were in our 20s, would sleep with whatever random man she had been courting for x number of weeks. Contact between her and these men generally ended after the first session, certainly no later than the second.  She sincerely looking for a committed relationship, thought it was a problem with performance, and was always despondent. “Why don’t they like me,” she would weep. Allowing sexual contact after a man has taken you out to dinner for the very first time is never advisable…and to most men it’s just downright despicable, even if they initiate the process. Why? Because men despise things that are easily acquired.

A woman, if looking for a serious and committed relationship, must never give ANYTHING easily or readily to any man. I mean not even a drink of water. Watch how a man treats his first car. He washes it every weekend, makes sure the oil is changed on schedule, and shampoos the interior. Why? Because he spent many afternoons after high school toiling away at some minimum wage/serious of odd jobs to buy it. For instance, my husband took far better care of his 1990 something Honda CR-V that he drove through high school and college than he does his Mercedes that he’s driving today. Why? Because of the level of sweat equity that was put into gaining and maintaining that car. It’s an unfortunate comparison, but truthfully the two things men often take the most pride in and place in the same category are women and cars.

Now that I’m in my 30s, my new pet peeve is women who lack a certain level of confidence. I was having a conversation with a friend of mine about two weeks ago who was in the midst of conflict with one of her friends. The result of the conflict is immaterial. What is of importance is the root – which came down to jealousy. Women by nature compare ourselves to other women. We compare hair length, waist size, height, skin color, designer clothing….whatever is pertinent at the moment. This is all well and fine, as long as at the end of the day the woman doing the comparison is able to embrace her assets and use them to her best advantage.

I find that in my 30s, I have little patience for women who do not possess this ability.

I am a firm believer that at this age, we should have the wisdom and faculties to sniff out when corporate America is trying to sell us whatever unattainable dream via an ad campaign is going to fatten their collective pockets. For instance, no matter how much Palmer’s Cocoa butter I slather on my skin, these stretch marks are NEVER going away. In light of this, Palmer’s isn’t going to get another dime of my money, no matter how many commercials they run. I would rather divert my dollars to procuring 100% nku cream from Ghana.  In the same vein, women who have issues with skin color (and in the Black community it’s generally those who are considered ‘dark’) really just need to embrace their beauty. Ebony skinned women, unlike women of my tone, have certain attributes that make them breathtakingly beautiful. As a rule, they have blemish-free skin; their features are keener; their hair is of a unique quality – these are all things that if cherished and venerated are excellent confidence boosters. And no matter what popular culture says, a woman who defines and owns her true-self will carry the scent of confidence – which more mature men find irresistible – instead of the odor of desperation when trying too hard to sell her worth in spite of these attributes. Does anyone see the difference?

I’ll say it again. Do yourself a favor today:- Whether you’re albino white or dark-as-night black; whether you’re a slip of a woman or a whale of one; whether you’ve got a 3rd grade education or six PhDs; wash your face tonight, look in the mirror and say “Hot Heaven, girl, you are fine!” and start to believe it.

If you’re married, I bet you the sex will get better…which will lead to breakfast in bed, dishes miraculously done, and an extra 20 bucks covertly stuffed in your purse just to say “thank you.”

Man Enough to Hold Her Purse

One of my absolute favorite couples is Steve and Mia Stewart. She’s a no nonsense HR professional and he’s one of Atlanta’s finest. (For all my international readers who are not familiar with this term, that means he’s a cop – not that I am checking out someone else’s husband!)

Mia is a queen bee and a  fashionista’s fashionista, who is always immaculately attired with a hair never out of place. Steve is a megalith of a man, with a broad smile, an infectious laugh and a frame that dwarfs everyone else in the room. As far as the male specimen goes, he’s pretty impressive. He of course has to stay in shape, since the better part of his day is spent chasing down criminals on foot.

Their daughter just celebrated her sixth birthday, and the kids and I were invited to the party. She’s the perfect mix of her parents – a combination of sass and comedy, clad in trendy clothing. As each of the Stewarts held court in their respective areas at the party, I was standing closest to Steve, who was gabbing on about football and other manly topics with the only other father at the party. Naturally I was drawn into the conversation. In the middle of his monologue, a voice over the loud speaker asked Mrs. Stewart to approach the front desk. She excused herself from the people he was chatting with and sashayed in the direction of the organizers who had summoned her, carrying a massive metallic purse. She paused as she passed by Steve.

“Steve. Hold my purse,” she commanded, thrusting the bag into his hands and never breaking her stride.

In perfect rhythm, Steve continued his discourse and reached for the bag, reacting with instinct and never pausing to acknowledge what had just happened: A massive, muscle-y, bald Black man was standing there talking about football with a metallic Guess bag in his hand.

The other dad and I began to chuckle.

“Dude, that purse really goes well with those jeans,” he quipped.

Steve was genuinely amused.

“Man, those two suck all the masculinity outta me,” he admitted. “And what’s worse is, Symone is going to want me to play with all her new toys. Got me out there in the street choking dudes out with pink press-on nails.”

The image of Steve in a police uniform choking out a gang banger with glitter all over him was more than I could take. I cackled mercilessly.

Mia returned a few minutes later, reclaimed her bag and announced that it was time to open presents. As she instructed Steve to take pictures of Symone opening every gift, he groaned loudly as she squealed and opened one particular item with much excitement. It was a miniature pedicure set crafted for children ages 6 and up.

“Look, Daddy!”

“Yeah baby. I see.”

I caught Mia smiling at Steve, and him smiling back.

My favorite couple.

Office Drama

Clearly I’ve been out of corporate America for far too long.

Since I was laid off at the end 2008 and said “screw it” to trying to find a regular office gig, I’ve mastered the nuances of stay-at-home mom drama. At the end of the day, mommy drama is no big deal. My kids’ needs can be satisfied with a cup of milk/juice, a snack and a Curious George marathon.

Last week I started a contracting position with a company that makes industrial tools and have been tasked with rewriting their web content. It’s great money, and provides me with what I assumed was a much needed diversion from my life as Just Mom.

You know what they say about ASSumptions.

*These people in this office are crazy. Let me just make that very clear.*

I am part of a team of 3 contractors whose skill sets float between sales and marketing. As we found out on DAY ONE, the director of sales absolutely loathes the marketing director. While passing him in the hallway, I’ve heard him utter her name and the words “ill”, “wretch” and “vomit” while indulged in conversation with another senior product manager. One DAY TWO, she herself minced no words about her feelings towards him.

“Al Gore invented the internet, and Martin Ashcroft invented the X website,” she said in mockery during our training session.

Okay….?

3 days after we began our training, the other web content developer up and quit. She said she could not handle what we were being asked to do…which was nothing. At the time there was no plan of action, goals, or benchmarks. WE have to develop all those, which is what we’ve been doing for the last week.  The team has been involuntarily trimmed down to me and this huge Serbian guy (who I absolutely adore), who is steering the SEO campaign.

Now, as it turns out, the marketing team absolutely hates him and me, because they see us as competition. Dude. I’m on a 6 month contract. How am I competition again?

Behind closed doors they gossip about and berate us. In our presence, they tell us they want to give us the tools to succeed, and then when we ask for them, withhold information (CRAZY!). During our first status meeting with the marketing team, we laid out our plan of action and work flow process. Theresa (the director), a slender woman with porcelain skin, hawkish eyes and perpetually pursed lips, informed us that nothing we had presented was anything new to them. They were well aware of the challenges and have been banging their heads against a wall with trying to get the owners to make changes. For real? It’s been two years…and no changes have been made. Spare me. Clearly you haven’t been trying THAT hard. I could see why Martin despised her so much. She’s hardly a marketing professional – or any sort of professional for that matter. As someone who has a degree in BSery, I could smell her crop from a mile away. She’s fond of using $5 words like “ubiquitous” and “optimize” and “maximize”, throwing them against a wall and waiting to see what sticks – which is generally nothing. But hey, it’s worked well for her so far!

The transition from diaper changer to bullet dodger is proving not to be such an easy one. I have to brush up on my diplomacy skills, because there have been far too many close calls. Like yesterday, when I caught myself staring at Theresa like she was a complete idiot. It’s the same look I give my kids when they do something asinine, like color on the TV or my sheets. If I keep treating upper management like they infants they’re acting like, I’m going to be taking my leave faster than need be. Why do I feel like I’m STILL changing diapers?!

Someone really ought to develop a training manual for BS navigation after reentering the work force. It would be a best seller.