Monthly Archives: May 2011

No degrees.org

So, the day is finally here. We’re leaving to get on a plane at 2 pm today to go to South Africa. Notice I said ‘go’ and not ‘move’ to South Africa, Reader. A great deal has changed.

It would be inappropriate for me to write about the details of the events that have taken place over the course of the last 3 weeks, but suffice it to say that a journey that started out with so much faith and optimism has morphed into a veritable festering, seeping scab, caused by the daggers of the 3xC’s – Crazy Colored Church-folk. If you’re ever looking for a group to drag you down back into a barrel, find a black church. There’s always that one gossipy, misinformed, self important individual ready and willing to insert themselves into your affairs where they have no business, and equally ready to spread their arsenal of misinformation to thwart your plans. With good and ‘godly’ intentions, of course. They start a firestorm and a chain reaction of mess and then step back and watch, wonder why and how everything has gone so awry?

So here we are: Thousands of dollars spent later, and tens of emotional hours spent on the phone with grandma and good friends, tearfully saying our good-byes and relishing the shrinking number of days we will all have left together on the same continent. That is, until I discovered that we did not have approval/support/whatever to go to South Africa as of, I dunno, 10 minutes ago.

WTH??

I counted up the cost, analyzed the tidbits of conversations I have been privy to, and came up with this conclusion:

I need to find me a White church.

I’ve said it before when I thanked my White friends for being White: When I want excellence, I need to go to White people. When I want to find a (well paying) job – White people. When I want hot fries, I gotta ask White people. When I need a solution – its always White people who bring it. Black folk cause 96% of my problems, and I’m finally sick of it.

The only good thing that has come out of all this is that I finally made it plainly clear that I have zero interest what-so-ever in being a pastor’s wife, co-pastoring a church, or having any association/job description that sounds like or rhymes with pastor/preacher. Don’t. Wanna. Do. It.

Hopefully, I’ll have more humorous fodder once we land…and get internet. You know how Black folk like to take their time when they’re in control of the services you need.

R.I.P: My Former Cool Self

Caroline says I have a permanent scowl on my face.

“I never see you smiling,” she burst one day.

I looked up from the diaper I was changing/floor I was sweeping/laundry I was washing/child I was chastising (I don’t recall, but surely I was doing one of these many things) and met her concerned gaze. Instantly, I felt my forehead relax and un-slit my eyes.

It was true. My brow is always furrowed and my jaw is always tight. My face had gradually morphed into a perpetual expression of disgust/disdain/forlorn and I hadn’t even realized it. I had no answer for Caroline, and as if reading my thoughts in those brief seconds, she answered for me.

“I guess it’s kinda hard when you’re spending your days slogging through mountains of poop.”

“Yeah,” I said. “It is.”

I used to smile all the time. I mean, I was living life footloose and fancy free as a 20-something single. Why wouldn’t I be smiling?

 Later that night, I walked into my closet and looked through all the outfits I hadn’t worn in years. Low rise jeans. Belly baring T-shirts. Clinging dresses that still managed to leave enough to the imagination. Spiked heels with 0 support. I finally made the decision to throw them out. I used to follow fashion religiously, keeping  up with every whimsical trend; but I am now a reformed utilitarian. Even if I did get back to my pre-pre-pre-pre pregnancy weight (that’s 4 ‘pres'; please keep up), how ridiculous would I look as a 33 year old woman geared up in sequined Old Navy Fleur de Lis  and with the back of my trousers racing towards my crack? With her 4 kids in tow? Not a good look.

The death knell on my Cool sounded when I came to understand that my music choices were to be (and are) dictated by how the lyrics of any song in question would sound in the tone of Aya’a squeaking, cracking soprano. Equally, each item of clothing I adorn my body with is chosen by giving special consideration to their possible appearance after any number of probable mishaps during the course of the day. Most of these mishaps will include a child’s bodily fluid of one sort or another.

I finally realized that any sense of ‘cool’ I had garnered in my teens and 20’s had died and gone to Hell when I went to a party this weekend – a party at Chuck E. Cheese, mind you. (I don’t have time for adult frivolity anymore.) Audry, Aya’s pre-school classmate was turning 5, and she invited all her classroom friends. For anyone who’s ever been to CEC on a Saturday, you know it’s a zoo. We got there at 12, when everyone in the N. Fulton area decided to pour in at once. Trying to make myself feel better by looking better, I opted to wear a spaghetti strapped maxi dress, which in turn required a strapless bra. It became clear very quickly that this was a poor decision, as every running child and rambling employee stepped on the hem of my dress…exposing my breasts. Liya, who I was forced to take along and therefore forced to hold on my hip, ALSO found it necessary to pull on the already plunging neckline of my dress…and therefore exposing my breasts.

I looked around at all the parents who had come to the party. Despite their best efforts, they looked equally exhausted. One woman looked like she had given up on any sense of cool half a decade ago and was wearing a puke green t-shirt, oatmeal colored shorts, and those Gawd-awful Abbadabba’s that they on sell in Roswell, GA. She didn’t even bother to throw on lip gloss. After CEC, she had to take her son to a Karate Party, and then get back on the Mommie hamster wheel and run a trillion errands. Her outfit made sense. Mine did not.

I looked up at Audry’s parents, Melissa and Jake. They were both blond, and I assume very athletic in their pre-parental life. He was tall and jovial, and she had the build of someone who used to be very petite. I sat fanning myself, and she caught my gaze.

“Hot?” she asked.

“Yeah!” I said sheepishly. “I get hot very easily these days.”

Her eyes widened.

“Me too!” she ‘whispered’ above the din of screaming children. “I thought I was going through the change. It was so bad, I went and talked to my doc about it.”

“Wow.”

“Yeah,” she continued. “It never used to happen before I had kids…”

Her voice trailed off, as we turned our attention to our children who were devouring a hitherto very beautifully decorated cake.

Jake was joking around with the staff and guests. He was wearing ‘dad jean shorts’, with white tube socks and blue and white Asics. His multi-colored striped polo shirt rounded out the outfit. This is a man who looked like he probably used to drive a Porsche, and with reckless abandon; but today we arrived in the parking lot at the same time, as he carefully pulled up with in a black 2009 Jeep. That’s about as pimpin’ as he’s gonna get, I’m sure.

The party was just 2 hours long, but most of us left with 20 minutes to spare. I was exhausted just being there and wanted to go home and take a nap (which only happens in my most fanciful dreams). By 9 pm I’d be asleep, and the next morning I would be back on the hamster wheel.

With the birth of my children came the death of my cool. I’ve paid a steep price and lost a great deal (flat abs, free time, thousands of dollars…). But in the end, it’s all worth it – because one day THEY’RE going to have kids, and my snotty, whining grandchild(ren) is going to rob THEM of all the hipness they once possessed as well.

And I’m going to be there pointing, laughing and mocking the whole time.

Mauhahahahahahaha!!!!


Reader: For your homework today, your job is to think and list 5 people with kids whom you would describe as “cool”, “modern” and just over all “with it”. (No part time/ weekend parents. They don’t count.)  Bet you can’t.

The Sound of Purple

One Friday afternoon, 2024

It was a sticky , sweltering afternoon in July. I lay motionless on the wicker two-seater that now served as my sofa, since my husband had sold all of our furniture, dishes and cutlery to fund some crack pipe project, like saving disadvantaged gnomes in the inner city.

It was so hot that I was afraid to think, lest the power and movement  of my brain waves cause me to spontaneously combust internally. Still fearful that any sudden movement would elevate my core temperature, I slowly raised a paper cup of lemonade to my lips, pondering my life as it was.

The kids were all gone: Nadjah was pursuing her modeling career, Aya had run off to France to become a painter, Stone was probably crushing some poor kid on a football field somewhere, and Liya was practicing her shtick for Mad TV.  Everyone had something to do…but me. Suddenly, the phone rang, interrupting me in the middle of the thoughts I was trying not to think. It was Akuba Sheen(!). Despite the years that had passed, she and I had maintained a solid friendship; a sisterhood if you will. Our bond was a shared rabid, aggressive, visceral love and adoration for Prince.

“Hello?”

“Malaka. It’s time.” She hung up the phone without another word.

Oh my God! It’s time! I thought.

I didn’t have time to think anything else. From that moment on, I was working on instinct. I grabbed the bag that had been sitting by the front door for the last 12 years, packed in anticipation of this very moment. I hoped into my car and sped as fast as I could to Hartsfield-Jackson airport. I parked in the weekly lot and ran at break neck speed towards the terminal…but which terminal?

Oh mercy! I thought. I don’t know where I’m going!! Is it terminal South? North? What do I do??

I darted back and forth between two ends of the airport for about 40 minutes, knowing that I would have to find the appropriate ticket counter, and soon. One of them had a reservation for me, but which? I sat in the Atrium of the airport, about to give up. Airport security had been watching my every flighty move. As I lowered my uncombed afro’d head into my hands, I heard a voice call out to me.

“Malaka!”

It was Akuba Sheen(!)!

“This way! We’re flying Delta.”

Delta? Those rat bastards? Ugh. But today, it didn’t matter. For Prince, I was storm the very gates of Hell itself, and it was for Prince that I was at the airport.

You see, 13 years ago, Akuba Sheen(!) began honing her photography and documentary skills, with the sole aim of becoming so amazing and renown at her craft that Prince and the NPG would come calling. And when they did – as they had done that day –  we would be ready to do whatever he needed.

We embraced each other tightly, dazed and and confused by our fortune. A single tear fell down my cheek. Finally, I broke the silence.

“Are you ready?” I asked.

“Am I? To Paisley Park we go!”

We spent the 2 hour ride in silence, each of us engrossed in rock/R&B/country/futurist Prince tunes that were loaded on our respective mePods. (iPods were sooo 2 decades ago.) We looked at each other only occasionally, grinning like school girls who had successfully snuck off campus. When we landed in Minnesota, we were greeted by an old friend.

“Prometheus!” I exclaimed. I threw my arms around the unicorns neck. I had not seen him since that fateful day in 2011 when Shelby J came to visit.

He ordered us to hop onto his back and within minutes we were at the Mecca of Music: Paisley Park. (By the by, if you ever have the chance to ride a unicorn, I humbly suggest you do. It’s really a very comfortable ride.) He dropped us off at the massive oak entrance leading into the compound.

Akuba Sheen(!) pulled out her camera and I got my notepad out to scribble down my observations. It was everything that I had dreamed of, down to the tile mosaics of the Symbol on the walls and floor. There were 15 doors in the lobby of the Park. Which were we supposed to go into? Which held Prince, our Cracker Jack prize at the end of this little adventure? As the oak door swung shut behind us, a hairless bronze skinned woman – hairless save for the single massive dread-lock sprouting from the front of her forehead – beckoned us silently towards a low door with a copper frog hanging on the front. Odd – but whatever! There, behind the miniature door, sat a miniature man in a silvery track suit.

“Prince,” we whispered breathlessly.

He twirled his wrist and held up his hand, imploring us for silence. We didn’t dare breathe. When he did speak, he asked us to sit on the floor opposite him. He was puffing on a Hookah.

“But I thought – ” he cut me off, as if sensing my thoughts.

“I don’t smoke,” he said smiling benevolently. “It spoils the wind pipe. I’m inhaling steam, which loosens up the chords.

Ahhhhh...”

Wanting to get down to business, Akuba spoke first.

“We’re here to shoot a documentary -” she began.

Again, he twirled his wrist, which was suddenly adorned with a lace handkerchief. Amazing.

“I know why you’re here,” said Prince. “And pretty soon, you’ll know why you’re here too.”

We both drew a sharp breath. Were we going to be asked to bathe in the Waters? Perhaps to draw graffiti on the bridge? So many questions…

“Prince I -“

“Shhhhhh…,” he whispered. “Close your eyes, and just listen.”

So Prince, Akuba Sheen(!) and I sat like that – for 2 hours – not speaking – only listening to the sound of our own breathing and his fake smoke machine bubbling in the background.

“Did you feel that?” Prince asked.”Did you feel the power of that”

Akuba nodded.

“Good. Now you know what to do.” He spread his arms like a tiny pterodactyl, flapped them once and disappeared into a thick mist.

“Wow,” said Akuba Sheen(!)

“Wow,” I replied.

Wow…I still don’t know what the heck we were supposed to do.

Tinogona: It IS Achievable

Well, it’s almost 10 pm EST and the world didn’t end. I wish I had made the time to print up some t-sirts.  They would say:

May 21, 2011 – No Rapture, No Judgment, No Sh*t

Today’s post isn’t about the wack jobs who quit their jobs 6 months ago to spread “God’s” message that the world is (or was) slated to end 4 hours ago. Rather, today’s post is about a message that we don’t hear too often and certainly not often enough: Anything is possible.

In just 4 short days, the phrase “did you see Oprah yesterday?” will become obsolete. There is a mourning in my spirit that I am almost ashamed to admit exists. How can I be so bewildered, befuddled and bereaved that Oprah is going off the air? It’s ‘just a talk show’ for Heaven’s sake, isn’t it?

Nah. Nah, it’s far more than that.

Yesterday Oprah revealed her favorite host of all time – Tererai Trent. I was unaware of Tererai’s story, having missed the interview she did with Oprah 2 or 3 years ago. It’s definitely an amazing one that I encourage you to look up. Tererai was married off at age 11 to a man who beat her almost every day because she wanted to learn, By age 18, she had had three children and had not yet achieved her dream of getting an education. Despite her setbacks, she held fast to her heart’s desire: she wanted to go to America and get a doctorate degree. As though scripted like a Ron Howard film, a kindly American worker with Heifer International who tells her that if she truly wanted these things, ‘it is achievable’. Her mother told her to write down those dreams and hide them under a rock…the rock would keep her dreams safe.

 Watch this and learn about Rocks!

I am surrounded by talented, intelligent women who – despite their talent and intelligence – do not truly believe their dreams are achievable.  And when I say ‘believe’, I don’t mean ‘hope’… I’m talking about a knowledge and a belief in your ability that is unshakable because it’s grounded in fact. Just as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow morning (now that we know Jesus isn’t swooping into town this weekend), we – and talking to myself as well-  have to know that anything we put our mind to is achievable.

In that spirit, I did some things today I would never ordinarily do. I went to look at a  real estate property that is everything I have previously envisioned (and I mean down to the cobblestone walk way); because I want that building. I went into Carmax and asked if I could sit inside a Ford Flex; because I want that car. I wrote to an old boss to ask her for business advice, because I want to succeed in my new venture. Now, I didn’t actually get to go inside the property today, and  Carmax didn’t have a Flex on the lottoday, and I haven’t heard back from my ex-boss today…but that’s not the point. This conversation I had with Akuba Sheen(!) is the point:

“Aunti!”

“Sweetie! How is it?”

“Fine o. Did you watch Oprah yesterday?”

“O. No…I was on a photo shoot.”

“Then let me tell you what happened -> insert 10 minutes of talking about Tererai <-“

“Wow. You have to stop! You’re going to make me cry. So all these things can really be done?”

“I’m telling you man…we can do it. Look at you with your photography. You’re so talented, and you’re taking steps in directions you’ve never been before. We’re planting seeds.”

“Seeds…”

“Yes! Seeds! Live seeds! And do you know what the amazing thing about seeds is? You have to let them lose from your hands, put them into the ground and allow to roots to grow. A tree doesn’t start with a mighty trunk and bushy leaves. It starts with strong roots. All we have to do is be brave enough to plant the seeds man!”

-> insert some cackling and the conversation later comes to a close <-

I know people come to my blog for comedy and poop and fart jokes, but since the world isn’t coming to an end this weekend, I want to encourage you to reach for your dreams. If your thoughts and dreams a honest and good, keep them protected from predators. Find a rock to hide them under. When you are feeling weak in your resolve, renew it by reciting those goals again and again.

There’s always a dream killer ready to tell you why you can’t do something; but there is a bigger God who says you can. It IS achievable.

Attracted To Black Women? Then You’re Gay!!

The title sounds completely outlandish, doesn’t it? I mean, what an as(s)inine thing to say! Well, this seems to be the week for people who generally talk out of their asses to take center stage – the largest of which is Satoshi Kanazawa, a racist, bigoted misogynist with a number of fancy degrees from the UK. Satoshi, it seems, does not like Black women; nope. Doesn’t like us at all. We are genetic “mutants” . He said so in his article in Psychology Today, entitled: Why Black Women are (Rated) Less Physically Attractive than other Races.

Every 3 to 5 years, some scientist/social psychologist/medical professional – and even a random politician or two – comes up with new evidence to support their doctrine of presumed Black inferiority which says that Black people – and Black women in particular – are impossibly mediocre, be it intellectually, physically, fiscally…whatever. I hadn’t realized the hour hand had swept past our period of reprieve, and the time had come for Society/Science to re-up on the psychological beat down that Black women have been made to endure since, I dunno, slavery. Thus, I was ill prepared for Satoshi’s comments which include:

“The only thing I can think of that might potentially explain the lower average level of physical attractiveness among black women is testosterone.  Africans on average have higher levels of testosterone than other races, and testosterone, being an androgen (male hormone), affects the physical attractiveness of men and women differently.  Men with higher levels of testosterone have more masculine features and are therefore more physically attractive.  In contrast, women with higher levels of testosterone also have more masculine features and are therefore less physically attractive.  The race differences in the level of testosterone can therefore potentially explain why black women are less physically attractive than women of other races, while (net of intelligence) black men are more physically attractive than men of other races.”

Man. And I had just begun to feel pretty good about myself this week. I had to tell my husband…he had married a man.

“Babe…you’re gay.”

“What???”

“Yes. Did you not read the article by the Japanese dude this week? The one where he said Black people had some weird genome load and all Black women were less attractive THAN OTHER RACE OF WOMEN ON THE PLANET? Oh yeah. The one that says we have more testosterone, making us androgynous, and therefore making you gay. You like men…because I am a man.”

Marshall leaned in an kissed me quietly.

“That’s not true,” he said. “Now what do you want for dinner.”

I love this man for a reason.

Here’s the crux of the matter: Satoshi needs to be stripped of all his degrees, honorary and otherwise and go back to school. He clearly learned nothing concerning research, compilation of data, and empirical presentation of that data. A quick look into the history of how this article was fashioned will reveal the following: Japanese dude, who already harbors a racist bias, traipses down to a university (which is coincidentally south of the Mason-Dixon line) to ask some college kids (who have very little world experience outside of what TV and their friends tell them) who is hotter: Loretta Devine or Lisa Ling or Lauren Conrad.

And that’s supposed to be “science”? That’s supposed to represent the pinnacle of academia? Give me a break.

At the end of the day, who really gives two sashimi sandwiches what Satoshi thinks? The subject of beauty is subjective, and his opinion of me, my race or my sex has as much importance as what Bin Laden was planning on having for dinner this week. It doesn’t matter. I mean, this was the man who penned such thought provoking articles as Are All Women Essentially Prostitutes? 

You know the good thing about God? The good thing about God is this: When Jesus died on the cross and hung out for a few weeks before heading back to Heaven, he didn’t look down on his disciples and say “Ei y’all! Don’t you fret. I’m leaving, but I’ll be sending you a Comforter to take my place…his name is Satoshi Kanazawa.”

It is only in Satoshi’s world that full lips and wide hips are “masculine features”; that a full bosom and a swaying backside are the result of an over abundance of testosterone. The man is clearly an idiot, because I am SO hot.

Photo courtesy of The Fabulous Akuba Sheen(!)… unedited, un-retouched, and taken within several sweaty minutes of chasing Stone around the ‘hood.

Who Gon’ Clean Up All These Flowers?!?

Marshall and I celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary this weekend, and it was honestly the best anniversary we’ve had – ever.

After I cleaned out the shoe store in my closet, it was abruptly time to head to a marriage conference that was coincidentally happening the same weekend as our anniversary. I had been working so hard that I had let time get away from me, and we had to leave before I had time to freshen up. As I nestled into the front seat of Marshall’s car, I got a whiff of steam from betwixt my clammy legs.

“I smell like sweat and oppression,” I said to Marshall. “Do you smell that?”

I fanned my crotch in his direction.

“Nope. I don’t smell anything,” he said. “Besides, I have something for that later.”

A combined 850 sweaty pounds rolling around on hotel sheets is not going to make me smell better, I thought.

We sped off.

Caroline had graciously offered to watch the kids Friday night, and Marshall had arranged a surprise for our iron year anniversary. We had already planned to stay at a hotel for the evening and get up early for the second part of the conference, so I wondered what the “surprise” could be. I’d have to wait to find out.

The marriage conference was amazing, with loads of really good advice (some that I found I would have to use sooner than I contended with). Unlike other events at our church, this one actually ended at a decent hour. There was still time left in the evening to do something. As it turned out, Marshall had gotten us a room at the Crowne Plaza Ravinia – a hotel I’ve been waiting to have the occasion to stay at for the last 11 years.

 

 I was like a squealing villager in the big city. The air was cleaner, the lights were welcoming…I mean it was just nice. It was hard for me to stop grinning. When Marshall opened the door to our suite, there were roses and rose petals all over the place. How romantic! Not one to miss an opportunity to ruin an otherwise passionate mood, I exclaimed:

“Ai! Who gon’ clean up all these flowers??”

 

Marshall rolled his eyes and shook his head in disbelief, while I stood in the walk-way, eternally pleased with my quick wit.  He walked me to the bathroom and showed me my surprise – a bubble bath. In a tub large enough to accommodate my enormous frame. Oh wow, what a gift! I soaked until I was prune-y…no kids, no screaming, no rushing…it was brilliant. We exchanged symbolic gifts for our 6th year:. He gave me a flat iron; I gave him a copy of Iron Man 2. 

The whole scene was very reminiscent of our wedding night, except we were both at least 20 lbs heavier and had earned a few more grey hairs and 6 years worth of wrinkles. Also, unlike our wedding night, I made no attempts at sex appeal or feigning anything resembling demure. Six years of marriage have morphed me into a horribly pragmatic woman, leading me to seduce him with the following statement:

“I have to go take a dump,” I said. “I’ll be in bed in a minute.”

Isn’t he a lucky guy?

A wedding anniversary lesson from my shoes

Yesterday Marshall and I celebrated our 6th wedding  anniversary. I spent the first half of the weekend clearing out old shoes that have accumulated in my closet over the course of 10+ years. Each one had its own memory. Some people collect stamps – I collect shoes. Caroline had come over to watch the children for us while we went to a marriage conference at our church for the weekend,

“I used to wear these with a red and black floral dress,” I said pointing to a pair of black T-strap sandals. And I used to wear these all the time work…when I was thin, single and had some money.”

My face advertised the disappointment I was (apparently) feeling. Six years into my marriage, and I was still lamenting the loss of my life as a single woman. My kids were throwing our freshly laundered clothes onto the floor and mashing Cheerios into them. I didn’t even care. All I could focus on at the moment were my carefully selected companions that I was about to toss into a Goodwill bin, as though our years together meant absolutely nothing.

“Well, this is a new life you have, Malaka,” Caroline said. “It’s a new beginning. You shouldn’t be sad on your anniversary day!”

I peered at my shoes again. In just 6 short years, I had progressively gone from a size 9 to size 10, my feet getting bigger with each child. As I looked at the soles of the 9s, I was suddenly struck by how dusty and worn out they were…some of them to the point of near disintegration. I had danced, run, sauntered, shopped and picnicked in these shoes. I had gone on dates in some, and had my heart broken in at least a few others. But all of that was behind me now, and I had neither use for many of those memories nor many of those shoes. In a fiat, I felt the strength to let them go.

What use are 6” platform heels at the zoo anyway?

Malaka vs the Broad in Education

I haven’t spent much time blogging these last few days because I’ve been dealing with an issue at my daughter’s school: specifically, her attitude in class.
Nadjah has had a difficult kindergarten experience, to say the least. She spent 2 months of the first semester in Ghana where she was behind her peers, finished up the second half of the first semester at the dreaded Mimosa Elementary in Roswell, and finally got a spot at the Arab charter school where she is now. Moving 3 times in one school year can be hard on anyone – but no one, least of all I, recognized this fact. I expected her to automatically adjust, and to adjust well.

Last Friday her school celebrated Earth Day. Since I’ve been working, I haven’t had a chance to participate in any of her school activities, so I was (somewhat) happy to be at the park with a hundred screaming, running children. I walked up to two of the moms that I knew and joked around with them. In the corner of my eye, I saw a tiny woman with sunglasses and a scowl on her face eying me for a considerable length of time. She finally walked over. It didn’t dawn on me that it was Ms. S, Nadjah’s teacher, until she spoke (I had previously only met her once). Her Russian accent grated against my ears.

“I don’t know how Nadjah is at home, but she seems to be very angry all the time at school,” she said in ‘greeting’.
“How do you mean?” I asked. And ‘hello’ to you too…
“Sometimes she will just yell in class for no reason, or she will be very mean to the other children. One time she screamed so loud in class that the other children had to cover their ears,” she said. “And when she doesn’t get her way, she throws a tantrum. Once in math class, she did not want to work with another student and went and hid under a table.”

As the woman droned on and on, listing my child’s numerous infractions, I felt my countenance darken. This was Ghana all over again, and I was going to have to administer yet another butt whooping. Talking had failed yet again.

“Ms. S, I truly had no idea this was going on,” I said in apology. “She’s sometimes mean to her little sister at home, but that’s what siblings do. I’m so sorry.”

Ms. S just looked at me. I could tell what she was thinking: Here’s another one of those parents who swears their child is an angel at home, and only acts up in school. I don’t kid myself. Nadjah is a good kid, but she’s no angel. She inherited her mouth from ME…and my mouth on a 6 year old is not cute. Still, she knew better than to cut up in class as her teacher described. I committed to spending the day in school in hopes that that would offer some sort of ‘balance’.
So after we got home and I ‘ministered’ to her behind, I sent the teacher an email, apologizing again for the disruption in class and asking her to inform me of any future infractions, no matter how small so that we could address them at home immediately. I got this email in response:

Thanks. I think Nadjah does her best following the rules but she needs to work on controlling her emotions. It is not a big problem but I’d like to fix it now when it is easily fixable instead of waiting to escalate. I would suggest giving her a reward every time she controls her anger. It could be a verbal reassurance or a sticker, something to show her that you acknowledge her effort.
Have a great weekend!

What?!?!? So if this was not such a big deal, why were you mean mugging me and yammering on for 15 full minutes about Nadjah’s laundry list of violations? And the LAST thing any of my children needs is another sticker or toy. They don’t get rewarded for doing what they’re supposed to do. Heck, do I get a reward for getting outta bed and doing all the mom stuff that comes along with it? Tseewwww.

So come Monday, I arrived in class as I promised to do. Nadjah waved at me from the table where they were making clay objects. The first thing I noticed is that kindergarten is indeed a microcosm of the real world. There was a smug faced mulatto girl called Serene who is just an absolute bee-yotch; the chirpy little Indian girl; a portly Black boy, complete with Kanye frohawk; the requisite number of smart brown skinned boys, destined for Georgia Tech; a shy white kid and an autistic kid. There was even a future wife beater in the mix. It was he that I noticed next, as he gruffly ordered Nadjah to get out of her seat so that someone else could use the clay…while neither of the teachers caught this and/or asked him to use his ‘nice voice’. Humph.

Kindergarten is hard work. There was constant movement: Recess; reading buddies from first grade coming in and out; nature walks; circling up; the never ending attempts at getting the teacher to call on you as you raise your hand as high as your arm sockets will allow. I helped Ms. Theresa, the TA, with lunch with the kids stayed until I had to leave to go pick up Aya from school. I discussed Nadjah’s ‘situation’ with her at length.

“You know, she’s not a bad kid,” she said. “I think she’s funny. She’s so cute.”
“Then what are the problems then?”
“Well, she does speak out of turn…”
“Like what and when?” I pressed. Nadjah is known for interruption.
“Like sometimes the teacher will be teaching and she’ll just yell out.”
“Yell out what? The answer to a question?”
“No,” Theresa shook her head. “Like she’ll just yell ‘ahhh!’ for no reason.”

Bull. No one yells ‘ahhh!!’ for no reason unless they’re crazy or has Tourettes, neither of which does my child suffer from. I had cracked the case. In kindergarten terms: Nadjah’s classmates were telling on her when she did something wrong, but she was not telling on them. That’s all about to change. My baby is about to start snitching, and snitching big time.
Exhausted, I got home and received another email:

Hi Malaka,
Thank you for coming today. It looks like Nadjah is doing fine when you are in the classroom. I noticed that she did not interact with the other children as much as usual. She was fine the rest of the day after you left, except for a little whining about a marker at dismissal time. You are welcome to come tomorrow again, or if you prefer, we can see how she does without you.
Also, when she gets mad at home, instead of giving her consequences, you can use some calming strategies. You can make a list of activities together (count to 10, sit down for a few minutes, read a book, color, etc.) and she can choose one when she needs to calm down. After that you can discuss the problem in a nice way without yelling. Hopefully that will help Nadjah control her emotions.

What the hell do you want lady? You’re mad when she interacts a certain way, and mad when she doesn’t interact enough? I had had it.

Hi S,
Thank you for the update. I got a chance to speak with Theresa, and she is very optimistic about Nadjah’s behavior. She mentioned that she will sometimes have sudden outbursts in class, and though we did not come to a conclusion together, I do have an idea of what it may possibly be.

I noticed that some of the other kids can be very rude to one another (two stood out in particular) and as I sat down, I saw one little boy ordering Nadjah out of her seat after you told xxx to allow another child to have a turn on the computer. Nadjah also told me that Serene (?) calls her stupid and “the meanest person in the universe”. I did not see Nadjah getting up to report any of this to either you or Ms Theresa, and I suspect that if someone is bothering her, she does not tell you to allow you as a teacher to (re)direct both students.
I also informed Theresa that we were out late last night as a family and that Nadjah was probably very sleepy. She told Nadjah she could lay down once they returned to class, which is why she asked you if she could have a rest. Unfortunately, Theresa did not tell you that Nadjah could have a short break, and she sat through math; which is not a problem at all. I could see from her face that she was disappointed, but she didn’t whine or throw a fit, so I’m pretty pleased that she controlled her emotions in that moment.

We do give Nadjah positive reinforcement at home, but we balance that by informing her what the consequences for poor behavior are as well. She gets praise when she does well, and direction on how to do better next time if she does not. But I am also happy and willing to employ your suggestions as well. I’d like to see how she does tomorrow without me there, and I told Theresa if you need me to come back I definitely will.

Thanks again!

Best regards,
Malaka

I was intentionally being a snotty whore, and I certainly hope it came across in my email. I have not received a response, and I don’t anticipate being asked to return to class to help or ‘observe’ any time soon.

Summer can’t come fast enough.

Naturally Helping a Sista Out!

Two weekends ago I abducted The Fabulous Akuba Sheen(!) and Caroline and drove off to the Natural Hair Expo on Camp Creek Rd. I’ve heard about the pomp and pageantry that takes place at this even year after year, but work or child care has always prevented me from attending. This year, I was not going to let either hinder my attempts to be a part of what my husband calls “a Negro festival”.

The air was thick with the sound of chattering Black folk.  By the time we arrived the day was waning to a close, and vendors were either complacently waiting for the doors to finally shutter or wildly attempting to draw the last of the straggling shoppers to their tables to coax dollars from their pockets.  I was more than willing to comply.

The first table we stopped by was selling shea butter by the case. An ebony skinned woman with shoulder length extensions looked dolefully on as people walked right by her. Caroline and I, both lovers of shea, stopped immediately.

“How much is one?” I asked the lady.

“One is…”

“Ei. You’re from Liberia,” I said in interruption. Her eyes lit up.

“Yes! How did you know?”

“Because of the way you said “one”.”

After the exchange that I am always happy to immerse myself in, I informed her that Akuba Sheen(!) and I were from Ghana and Caroline was from Kenya. She knocked $2 off my price and we trotted off into the tunnels of the Natural Hair cavern. (I would later return to her table and extort 3 more jars of shea butter from her. She commanded that I remember her website, racosmetics.com in return. I said I would. “How will you do this?” she asked. “Because RA Cosmetics is written on your brrrreast,” I replied looking at her perky bosom. Liberian women are just cool like that.)

I spent in insane amount of money at one vendor, sold by the auburn colored twists that one of the sellers was sporting. She smiled easily and was the essence of natural beauty. Their products were not cheap, but she somehow managed to get me to buy a trip package and extract $45 from my pocket.

“You betta sell it girl!” I hollered at her above the din.

One of the more interesting tables was way in the back, hidden from view and utterly obscure. A 6 foot puffy woman with braids, threaded hair and a perm (very reminiscent of a market maame) was selling alata samina – black soap. Each soap was scented in the most unusual way…one more than the others.

“Mmmm….what is this soap scented with?” asked Akuba Sheen(!).

Caroline bent over the massive wooden bowl to get a whiff.

“Oh my God. Malaka, smell this!”

Both of their eyes were dancing. I’d seen that look before. A dog once gripped my leg and began to hump it looked at me with the same wild look.

“Pheromones,” said the maame.

I have 4 kids. I don’t need more pheromones in my house; but Akuba and Caroline pooled their resources and purchased a block of the horny soap to split between them.

The final table we stopped at had 2 little girls who had just gotten their hair done. Unlike the other stalls doing child demos, there were no shrill shrieks or faces stained with tears. I was intruiged.

“What is your product all about?” I asked a stately woman with glasses and curly twists.

She told me the spray was Isis and that it was great for children’s hair. A spritely 20 something man with a fro-hawk and a white T joined in the conversation.

“I just did these two girls hair a few minutes ago,” he interjected. “The product is good for their hair because you don’t have to comb it.”

Bull, I thought. How can you not comb a kid’s hair?

As usual, my face betrayed my thoughts.

“You’re not supposed to comb children’s hair,” the woman said in confirmation.

Aya, as we all know, has tightly coiled hair. Ever since her woeful wailing resulted in our being booted from the Esani Institute salon a year ago, I have sought out a product that would help us work with her hair at home. My mind was racing and my heart was hopeful. Could this really be the super product? I looked at the pair skeptically.

“Are you guys just trying to sell me a product?”

“No, no!” they cried in unison. “It really works!”

After 2 hours in the hair labyrinth, I knew I didn’t have much money left. A quick glance in my wallet revealed that I only had $2 left. I was sunk. Akuba Sheen(1) lent me $3 more. Bashful, I asked them if they would sell me the tester bottle for my last fiver. They said they would have to ask the owner. Oh that’s just great, I thought.

As if summoned by our collective thoughts, an athletic woman with enormous hair, bold jewelry and a bottle of water materialized and breezed up to the table. I pleaded my case told her briefly of the horror that awaited me at home…Could she possibly offer me the sword that would help me slay the nappy dragon? She looked at me unsmilingly and wordlessly diluted the desired bottled elixir with her drinking water and took my five bucks. Again, my face read confusion.

“You’re supposed to dilute the spray with 50% water,” the bespectacled lady translated.

“Oh…well do you guys have a shop here? What do I do if I need more?”

“We are located in Texas,” said Isis.

“Oh…well do you ship to South Africa? I’ll be moving there in a few weeks.”

This made Isis smile.

She began to talk about natural hair and healthy lifestyle education.

“Hey, if your product works, I’ll consider opening a satellite store!” I said half joking.

“Okay!” she said with a smile.

As the 3 of us prepared to leave the table, the bespectacled lady tapped my arm.

“This is for you!”

Isis had thrown in the tester for the lemon grass scalp cure as well. I was a little overcome. This is the type of kindness I have hitherto only been accustomed to seeing in Ghana (and I assume other parts of Africa) – where people, otherwise unacquainted with you, offer you something extra ‘just because’. We call it tusu, or ‘dash’.

  Result: I have been using the lemon grass scalp cure and tea tree conditioner in Aya’s hair for our last 2 braiding sessions and she hasn’t wept once. My husband is nothing short of amazed.

“What does that stuff do?” Marshall asked. “Does it numb her scalp or something?”

“I dunno…but I know I need a case of it before we leave!”

Isis, you and your products are appropriately named. You are both godly and miraculous.

Why I shut Down My Facebook Account – Again

Last week I groggily got out of bed and went down stairs to the living room of my rented apartment. I turned on the lights, sat down in my sofa and took a look around. Something was different. My confused thoughts were interrupted by a rapid knock on the door. It was the police.

“Mrs. Grant?”

“Yes?”

“We understand you have some photographs on your wall.”

“Photographs…?”

“Yes,” the police continued. “You have some offensive photographs on your wall, and we are here to confiscate them.”

I was confused and unnerved.

“But…this is MY house! You just can’t come in here and take down my stuff!”

One of the officers shook his head.

“No. You only rent this house. And you’re not allowed to have any offensive or pornographic images on your wall or in your albums.”

“But I don’t…”

“Ma’am! That’s enough chatter.”

They brushed past me and snatched the ‘offending’ image off my wall. Bewildered, I asked them why they had chosen my house?

“We received a tip,” they muttered gruffly.

“A tip? From whom?!” I shouted.

“One of your friends. A friend who visits you often enough told us you had lewd material in your numerous albums and we’re here to take it.”

With that they were gone…taking the two pictures of my uterus and my placenta with them.

That’s pretty much what happened with the Facebook Gestapo came to my photo album chronicling the birth of my second born daughter, Aya. I logged on one day and saw a big yellow alert that said I had violated the photo policy that prohibits the posting of any ‘obscene and/or pornographic material’. Since I am neither a porn connoisseur nor consumer, I wondered what the f**k they were talking about. A quick glance through my albums revealed that the ‘pornographic image was none other than my uterus. Now who in their right mind gets off on a picture of a uterus?? That’s obscene.

Aya is almost 5 years old, so the album is no less than 3 years old. It elicited precisely the response that I wanted (at the time) from my ‘friends’ who stopped by to look: Ewww!! GROSS!!

I’m just weird like that.

Now that the Facebook photo Nazis have come into my internet real estate, rented though it may be, I have been thrust into the realm of deductive reasoning. It’s not a place I like to be. I can only deduce this chain of events based on the facts.

Facebook has over 600 million users on its network. They’re not going to dedicate hundreds of man hours trolling these users photo albums to enforce their image policy. This means they rely on people to report (or snitch) to enforce said policy. A picture of a blurry red blob posted in 2009 can hardly be perceived as “pornographic”. Everything on my account is (or was) private. Only ‘friends’ could view my pictures, and therefore only a friend could have made the report.

I was an avid Facebook user, but I was equally terribly selective about whom I friended or shared my personal information with. So that conclusion that someone that I had allowed into my fold had betrayed me so utterly was a little more than I could take. I immediately went on an unfriending spree. Everyone was a suspect. The prudish members of my church; a small population of pompous  Ghanaians; primary school classmates; people I had come to know through my blog or friends of friends. Finally, the speculation became all too much for me to deal with and I just shut the whole thing down. (This is a technique I learned from Prince.) I would never be able to accurately say WHO reported the picture of my pornographic uterus, and I could not bear the thought that despite my cleansing efforts, the offender may still have been lurking among my remaining 333 ‘friends’.

It has been often said that the anonymity of the internet emboldens people to say and do the things they would otherwise never have the power to do in real life. I highly doubt that if Facebook equally reported who lodged the complaint concerning the policy violation, more people would be apt to do it. My hope is that one day the punk ‘kitten’ who reported my image has the balls to call me – or even stop by the house – and confess, so I can tell you in real life what blankity-blank-blanking-blank you are. That, and you’re an idiot if you equate a placenta to a sexually exciting stimulant.

/rantcomplete