Monthly Archives: May 2012

Unleashing My Inner Florence Johnston

Before she was a BAWSE on 227, Marla Gibbs played Florence Johnston, George and Wezzie’s snarky housekeeper on The Jefferson’s. I knew George was a bit of a douche and not a nice guy over all, but as a child watching the show, I never quite understood what Florence’s deal was. Why was she so indignant all the time? And why did she have that look on her face? You know – like she was stepping in a perpetual pile of George poo.

Well, thanks to my new job, I get it.

Yes folks, that’s right. You’re looking at Roswell’s newest housekeeper. I have joined a maid/housecleaning service.

For those who know me and went to school with me, this line of work makes absolutely no sense. I am not one known for her uber-cleanliness. I can’t abide clutter, but cobwebs in the corner or dust on the mantle don’t bother me in the least. In fact and historically, I was so nonchalant about the finer details of cleaning that term after term, I singlehandedly caused my dormitory to kpe inspection because I had refused to dust a ledge in my closet, or the rim of my bunk bed, or fold my sheets in a perfect tidy square. Our house mistress, Mrs. Martei, would gleefully deduct marks every time she came into my room.

Ooooh…ah! Malaka Gyekye! You too why!

Oh gellout! Why are we making beds anyway? We just have to sleep in them and spoil them again tonight. Mstew.

Meanwhile, my very tidy sister and her dorm mates would cheer with joy when they were proclaimed to be the winners of the clean-up competition or whatever it was called. Did they win anything? No. They just got bragging rights over absolutely nothing, and I got the satisfaction of not having to overexert myself for no good cause, dusty desk and all.

And now, nearly 20 years later, I’m a housekeeper? And I LIKE it. Oh the irony.

Now before your head explodes with the question of why I have taken on such menial work, I have another confession for you:

Despite all my years and numerous destinations, I have never flown first class. No, not once. I don’t count that time I tricked the stewardess on Ghana Airways by feigning sickness midway through the trip, because I wasn’t treated to a complimentary glass of wine (because I was supposed to be sick) and she set me in the very back of first class so that she could monitor me (because I was supposed to be sick). My BFFFL is celebrating her 35th birthday in a 3-day bash by the beach and I plan to be there with bells, whistles and weave on.  I’ve taken on this job to help fund that effort.

That, plus working at DSW and caring for my four kids as we enter into the swing of summer has sadly left me with little time to write. I literally work 7 days a week. But Lord have His sweet mercy, do I have so much to write about!

First let me tell you about the company. I can’t tell you the name of the owner, nor can I tell you the name of the company, because I am about to divulge some things about her clients that I am sure they would rather not be known to the e-universe. This of course would jeopardize her business, and we can’t have that.

*Harriet is a single mom who started this business about six months ago. She is tall, statuesque, in her late 20’s and can sell ice to a mute walrus. When I asked her why she started a cleaning company of all things, particularly given that she has a degree, she told me that she “likes to start businesses for things that she knows she could use herself.” That, and the start-up cost was very low. Her operation is small, but super efficient. It’s staffed with a group of mature women and sister-friends, so there is no nonsense…only work. I love it. We clean, we speak when we need to, we roll out.

The first house that I went to belonged to a young family. The woman was about 33 and she had just had her first child, 8 months ago. I remember what it was like to be a first time mom, and cleaning was one of the furthest things from my mind. I could forgive our client, but one of the other women couldn’t. She carried on and on about how nasty the house was, and how she couldn’t understand why the woman didn’t just wipe up when the baby was asleep.

This is one of my biggest pet peeves about people who don’t have kids, or have had kids so long ago that they’ve forgotten what those early days are like. The last thing you feel like doing when the baby is asleep is “wipe up”. You either want to take a nap yourself, or watch TV, or take a shower. First time moms rarely shower. That’s just a fact.

As I cleaned gobs of White people hair from the shower floor and scrubbed off lime scale, I felt good. I felt like I had done my good deed for the day and helped a fellow mom. It didn’t hurt that I was fiscally compensated for my deeds AND given a tip. How kind of her!

It turns out that would be the first and only tip I would receive.

Americans, or Georgians at least, are very tight-fisted when it comes to tipping in the sanitation industry. Harriet explained the types of people you can expect NOT to receive tips from:

“Foreigners never tip. They think you should be happy to clean their houses,” she said. “And old people won’t tip, but they’ll offer you some water or something else to drink. Middle-aged white guys don’t tip either. Sometimes younger women will tip, but usually they won’t.”

Well good golly gosh! Who does that leave then?

Armed with insight into our customers’ profiles, I have modified my expectations and now no longer expect a tip. Instead, I look for other ways to satiate my dearth of intellectual stimulation. What better way than to observe and process the details of my environment so that I can share them with the M.O.M Squad?

First and foremost, I see that although they differ on the outside, most American households are the same. They all have that 20-30% coupon that comes from Bed, Bath & Beyond laying somewhere on the kitchen counter, no doubt destined for the trash before being used and mounds of dog hair embedded in fabrics in every room in the house. In the bathroom there are splatter marks on the mirror and drips of water on the floor. Your typical American bedroom will also boast a bottle of KY Jelly on the side table or wardrobe, empty except for the last dribbles that have gone unused because you’re either too lazy to go out to get some more, or you just can’t bear to part with those last drops. You haven’t needed to use them recently, but what if you do in the weeks ahead. What then? Nothing hurts like dry hoo-hah, I know.

Anyway.

Some households are wonderfully unique. Take this one house I went to clean in the country. It smelled of stale cigarettes and ham. But I could overlook all that because the family had constructed a water garden in the back. The sound of rushing water calmed me as I scrubbed and swept. Working backward from the bedrooms, my team mate and I ended up in the family’s game and show room. Every surface was covered with dust, including the lamps. The lamps made with deer hoof bases.

Yes, you are seeing correctly. Just above this ‘eclectic’ item sat the head of a buck that I assume once roamed the nearby forests with these very severed feet. I dusted, vacuumed and sprayed the room, suddenly eager to escape the aura of mammal death.

Overall, the job hasn’t been bad. Most of the houses haven’t been filthy, just unkempt. My worst job to date has been an empty house that was being rented out.

 Have a gander at this refrigerator. I nearly gagged when I opened it. It looked like the woman cleaned it every Tuesday at never o’clock. And had the nerve to ask how long it would take to finish the house.
Heifer, have you looked at your fridge? I wanted to ask. How long do you think it would take you?


The answer is 40 minutes, in case you were wondering. The oven and microwave were no better.

But the best, and we always save this for last, is this one house out in Cumming. That house right there sent me into a spirit of worship!

It was about 4,500 square feet of awesomeness and belonged to the ‘perfect’ family. The mom came out and greeted us with a big smile on her face and her hand extended to shake ours. She was just in an incredibly good mood. And I would be too, if I woke up to the view she had every morning. Her master bedroom faced a small like surrounded by lush rolling hills. I mean, actual, literal ROLLING hills. Mallard ducks nibbled serenely on algae and aquatic life and a small black terrier bounded in the grass. There was a cross in some form in every room, and motivational sayings on the walls of her kids’ rooms.

Wish it…
Think it…
Do…

read the one in her son’s room. His book cases were stuffed with trivia books, motivational texts,  Mensa queries and John Grisham novels. His sister’s room was devoid of clutter. Only her hand scrawled periodic table taped to her mirror looked out of place amid the perfection…and even THAT carried an element of excellence.

Like I said, the mom was in the most excellent mood – even when her teenaged son scratched her late model Honda Pilot as he backed out of the garage.

“A coat of paint and it will be just fine!” she laughed. She sounded like a fairy, or some other friendly creature of yore.

I had to agree with her. Who disagrees with fairies?

“It sounded worse than it actually was,” I said congenially.

As we cleaned the home – all THREE levels of it – my last task was to do her bathroom. She had already made the bed (a double California King monstrosity) so I dusted and walked into her bathroom. And I walked and I walked until I realized that that marble and tile room that I suddenly found myself  in was NOT another living room. It was her freaking bathroom!

I have no words. She literally takes a dump in an environment of excellence; every day.

So I am determined now. First on my agenda is to earn my way to a first class plane ticket, and next it is to earn myself a first class home. I doubt it will be one toilet at a time, however. But who knows? Maybe I’ll clean the right toilet and end up on someone’s creative writing team.

Blackwatch

I was a magnificent sight to behold.

You should have seen me: svelte and toned, my body was in the best shape it had ever been in. All those hours and weeks of dogged determination and completing my Insanity program had paid off. My breasts and buttocks sat sumptuously in my high-cut, bright yellow swimming suit, stubbornly defying gravity. Pamela Anderson had absolutely NOTHING on me.

I had just got done swimming 8 laps across the pool and hoisted my perfect body out of the water. My neighbor Keisha watched me enviously, shrouded with an oversized t-shirt, floppy straw hat and wide-rimmed shades. I struck up a conversation with her about natural hair. I have been natural for years now, and she was a recent convert.

“Girl, I just keep it short,” she confessed. “Natural hair is a lot of work!”

I nodded in agreement.

“It is a lot of work,” I replied, “but it’s worth it for days like this. You just can’t hop in and out of the pool when you have a perm.”

It was Memorial Day, and the family was spending the day by the pool before my husband worked his magic on the grill. I had spent the larger part of the afternoon trying to show the girls how to swim, and Aya was the only one putting in real effort. She enthusiastically dove under the water head first and flapped her arms and legs like a wayward crayfish. She barely moved five inches, but at least she was trying…which was much more than I could say for her elder sister. Nadjah refused to get her face wet at all.

“If you’re not willing to get your hair wet, then don’t waste my time asking me to teach you how to swim!” I barked.

She smarted and replied with a tepid attempt by putting her nose in the water. I snorted and turned my attention back to Keisha, who was also lamenting that after 3 years of swimming lessons, her daughter had still refused to submerge herself completely in the water. As we “mmhmmm’d” our mutual disdain for that failure, my beloved Aya went under the water and didn’t come back up fast enough.

My baby was drowning!

“Oh my God, Marshall! Get her!” I screeched.

The sound of my panicked voice carried over the expanse of the pool and only made Aya panic more. She reached desperately for the inflated tube that was just above her head, but she couldn’t get a grip. Her little beaded head bobbed just below the surface. My baby!

Marshall wasn’t moving fast enough. I sprinted past him and shot into the water like a bullet. With three streamlined strokes, I swam to my struggling child and lifted her out of the water. She clung to my neck, eyes wild and face drenched. I clutched her tightly and set her by the edge of the pool. In the distance, dark clouds from an approaching storm began to gather confirming that it was time for our departure. I couldn’t take being struck by lighting and losing a child to drowning in the same day.

As I led my brood home, I felt like a hero. How fitting and symbolic for the day we were celebrating.

*****

Now – Everything I described to you actually happened – except for the bit about my body. That’s not true. I did 10 minutes of Insanity and gave up months ago. I’m still weighing in at 200+ lbs, and I don’t have a high-cut anything in my wardrobe. My breasts and buttocks took on gravity about 4 years ago and lost – and wretchedly so. They are both sad swinging sacks of their former selves.

And I did save my child’s life – though not quite in the way I described. I leapt into the water feet first – not head first – and my movements were less like an arrow and more reminiscent of a lumbering grizzly bear chasing after and attacking its salmon dinner. I am resolute in my insistence that the intensity of my attempt to rescue my imperiled child is not to be diminished by the execution of that rescue, however poor.

As Marshall and Keisha howled with laughter in the background, Aya grabbed my neck and looked at me with bewildered eyes.

“Why is Daddy laughing?” she chattered.

“I don’t know,” I muttered, carrying her to get a towel.

Keisha was clutching her sides when I got back to the pool chair.

“Girl! I wish I had my camera!” she gasped. “That was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen!”

“Huh?”

“She could have saved herself by the time you got to her,” she snickered wickedly. “You should have seen the way you jumped in the pool!”

She could barely finish her sentence. Laughter was choking her. I couldn’t scold my neighbor, so I turned my ire towards Marshall.

“Well…why didn’t you go in the pool after her?”

“You didn’t give me a chance,” he scoffed. “You shot past me before I could react!”

“And it’s a good thing I did,” I said, drying myself off haughtily. “She could have drowned while we waited on you!”

Keisha coughed and cut me off.

“She was in no danger of drowning,” she chortled. “Ooooh! Comedy central!”

“That was like watching Baywatch, wasn’t it?” I smiled.

“Yeah…no,” she breathed.  “I was like watching ‘Not Baywatch’.”

Or Blackwatch, we concluded:  Overweight Black moms at the pool, just trying to keep their kids safe. It’s not pretty, but it gets the job done. Any mother would have done the same. I think.

Black Parenting Fail Week

Last week Marshall and I went to Ray’s on the River for lunch to celebrate our anniversary. Ray’s is located in Vinings, a very shwanky suburb of Atlanta. (And you have to say it just like that: shhwankyyy.) I thought I had been to Ray’s before, but I was wrong. As soon as pulled into the parking lot, it was clear that we had never dined at Ray’s on The River before. We’d eaten at Ray’s Killer Creek, but there are no Bentleys parked in the lot at Killer Creek. There were two Bentleys, side by side, in the parking lot at Rays on the River. Late model BMWs, Jaguars and shiny vehicles of brands unknown to me filled the lot. A number of them sported decals from Georgia Tech, Duke and other prestigious universities from around the South and Northeast.

“I hope I don’t screw up my kids’ future,” I muttered.

“Huh?” asked Marshall. “What are you talking about?”

I pointed to the two Bentleys sitting in the VIP lot.

“You don’t get to drive one of those because of something your parents told you to do,” I said. “That kind of ‘success’ only comes from turning your passion into a paycheck. I just hope I don’t project too many conventional expectations on them…and keep them in this paycheck-to-paycheck cycle we all live in.”

My husband hummed in agreement and led me into the building for lunch.

I can’t speak for all parents, but I assume that many of us fret over the thoughts of our children’s futures. While we can’t wait to launch them out of our houses and into independent life, we certainly don’t want to send them into this nutty world ill prepared. This is the goal for most of us, but certainly not these derelicts. The news this week has been alight with examples of poor parenting, and a number of Black parents (and I use the term loosely)in particular have exemplified levels of idiocy and lousy judgment that one rarely has the misfortune to see.

1. Millions of sperm – 30 kids: Did you see this guy in the news? Desmond Hatchett is a 33 year old man with nearly as many children to parallel his age. The man has fathered 30 children with 11 different women. He appeared in court in Tennessee last week to seek an amendment in his child support payments. He said he needed a break in child support payments. As a minimum wage earner, his payments are spread so thin that a number of the mothers only receive $1.49 a MONTH in support payments. A break in payments, Desmond? Why don’t you give your nut sack a break and stop littering the state of Tennessee with your seed! If there was ever a case for sterilization, this would be it.

Ladies, take a long hard look at Desmond Hatchett and his ilk. Before some man tries to put something ‘long and hard’ in you this week, insist that he wear a condom! Your uterus is not a dumping ground for offspring that he is ill equipped to care for.

2. Wash My Tot dad – This video went viral this week. No, your eyes are not deceiving you: this Neanderthal just put his toddler in a washing machine.

Do toddlers in diapers irritate you? Absolutely. Does that warrant throwing them head first into a high powered metal box powered by electricity that subsequently fills with water (water…which incidentally drowns people)? No. And no again. I am sure that we will see this man again in the news, and hopefully in handcuffs. Again, if there was ever a case for voluntary sterilization, this would be it. Anybody who can’t foresee the possible danger in putting a child in a washing machine has no business producing any more of them.

3. Murderous mom – This one actually broke my heart. Tonya Thomas, a 33 year old mother of 4 children shot and killed them in wee hours of the morning last Tuesday before smoking a cigarette and fatally shooting herself. Her children were 12, 13, 15 and 17 years old. There was a history of domestic violence in the family, but nothing to raise a red flag, at least not to the degree that a parent would murder her kids so coldly and calmly.

There are no other details to explain her actions, and I can draw no conclusions of my own. She may have been on drugs, she may have been depressed, she may have had a temporary mental lapse…only God knows at this point.

My hope is that ALL people will look at these parenting failures and reassess themselves. If you’re thinking of doing something crazy, take a deep breath and just DON’T.

What’s The Grossest Thing You Saw This Weekend? Bet I Can Top It.

Happy Monday one and all. I worked a 13 hour day yesterday, so I’ve put the kids in daycare, and am kicking back by plucking my chin hairs and lancing my whiteheads. “Ewww”, you say? You haven’t even heard the worst yet. Let’s open up our cerebral cortexes and fire up those neurons. We’re going deep into M.O.M mode. It’s been a while, and you’ve missed it. I know you have.

******

For a Sunday, Jimmy Carter Blvd was very busy. It had rained the night before and the air was damp and heavy with the scent of exhaust and fumes. I parked my car and surveyed my surroundings nervously. You never knew who might approach you in this neck of the woods. Small gangs of Hispanic and Black kids trolled the parking lot of the gas station I was sitting in. Across the busy street the gaily painted abandoned Taco Shack held my attention while I waited for Douche Bag to show up. He had picked up Nadjah for the weekend, and this Shell was our new rendezvous point. It was 5 pm, and I hoped he wouldn’t be late, as was his habit. I did not like the looks of the burly Mexican man glaring at me from the driver’s side of his taxi. It was hot, and there was only one shady spot under the concrete awning. We both wanted it, and in the end he inched his car forward just enough to let me share the shade. I parked 2 feet behind him, where I could keep him in my direct line of vision.

We were both waiting for someone. My assumption was that he was picking up one of the numerous Hispanic mothers who often mill about that area with a portion of their brood in tow. Unsmiling and pushing their double strollers, they would seem a perfect companion for the frowning brown skinned hulk in a trucker’s hat and tan plaid shirt.

Douche Bag pulled up a few moments later, this time only 3 minutes late. He approached my car and reached into my window and pressed my shoulder blades.  I resisted the urge to flinch at the contact.

“My offer to go for a walk still stands,” he said.

“And I still refuse it, thank you,” I retorted.

(He asked me to join him on an amiable walk about two weeks ago to discuss child support, and probably to take a stroll down memory lane. Unfortunately, the scenery in his memory is vastly different from the reality I recall and I will never be in the mood to debate those details with him.)

As Nadjah buckled herself in the car, the taxi driver’s fare walked out of the gas station and approached his trunk. He got out to open it. Douche Bag was still carrying on out how we would be friends one day, but I was only halfway listening. My attention was drawn to the woman approaching the vehicle. I could not take my eyes off her.

She stood at a confident 5’3”, and had to weight about 250 lbs. It was difficult to tell exactly how old she was based on the way she was dressed. With her wig askew – styled in a coal black asymmetric bob -she sauntered up to the waiting vehicle, dragging her feet lazily with every step. Unemployed and underemployed women in their early twenties all seem to have this trait in common, so she may have been about 26. She was wearing a tight polyester t-shirt, and her massive breasts and belly strained against the bronze and gold fabric revealing every blubbery bump and ripple that cascaded her compact body. The sound of her sandals making a sucking sound against the concrete drew my attention to her feet, which were beefy and not pedicured. One of the rules of summer in the South is that if you going to wear sandals, you must have a pedicure. It’s just common courtesy. I noticed she was wearing a black skirt, which might have been the most appropriate item of clothing in her ensemble. It was pleated with an elastic band and came to just above her knee. It put me in the mind of a ballerina’s tutu.

I wracked my brains in an effort to recall a ballet about the moon. It would serve as a pleasant distraction from the hot mess I was looking at; but I before I could conjure up a title, the Rotund Lady presented me with hers.

Yes, that’s right. She mooned me.

Carrying two small bags, she bent over into the trunk of the taxi and laid them down. As she did so, the bottoms of her butt cheeks dropped from beneath the hem of her too-short black skirt, like sweaty brown low hanging fruit. Horror washed over my face. It looked like a cruel demi-god had thrown gobs of mashed sweet potatoes at her backside and asked it to serve as an a**.

Douche Bag had said his goodbyes to Nadjah at this point, and was retreating towards his vehicle. His eyes followed my affrighted gaze to the dimpled glistening mass that was this unknown woman’s booty. Catching his glance, she bent over slightly more seductively and gave him a suggestive look.

You want some of this, her eyes said, it’s hot and fonky just for you…

I drove off before I could throw up.

******

See? This is why I hate summer in the South. Why Lawd…why?!?

So…When is Your Next Blog Again?

Dude. This is more of a Hump Day rant than an actual ARTICLE, so just be forewarned.

There is so much I want to write about that I don’t even know where to begin. The trouble is, none of it is funny (at least not in a laugh out loud way…more of a WTF way) and I just don’t want to focus my energy on any of it. I don’t want to play Negative Nancy this week.

Mother’s day was actually really good. I think it deserves a dedicated script rather than a passing mention, so I’ll save the details for another day when I’m not

SO PISSED WITH THE WORLD!

I mean what is really going on here? From the chick on Time magazine breast feeding her mammoth 3 year old son, to the president giving God the middle finger, to the hoochies at Wal-Mart with their bellies hanging out…it’s all too much.

So here’s the deal: I’m going to take a little mental break and be back in about a week. I need to collect my thoughts. You wouldn’t believe the carnage that has taken place in my inbox…but you will when I tell you all about it after the dust settles. Why do certain people insist on troubling me??? Oh trust me, you’re going to want to read this one. I just have two words for you: African Men.

Sweet Jesus save my soul from certain African Men!

Alright MOM Squad. Next week; I promise. Have a slice of pecan pie for me. Or whatever it is you guys like to eat on a Wednesday.

Peace.

Can You Be Honest With Your Friends?

My sister is a person whom one might define as socially awkward. While neither of us possess the gift of tact, I have become slightly more adept a maneuvering unfamiliar social situations, whereas she avoids them wherever and whenever possible. We both have the same handicap: that being that we don’t possess a filter. Whereas most people know that it constitutes poor manners to point out a hanger from a perfect stranger’s nose, we feel it is our civic duty to not only bring attention to the offensive item, but to introduce it to any other would-be spectator and random passersby.

Fortunately in my old age I have learned to bridle my tongue – at least somewhat – and curb my impulse to point out the defects in others, be they friends or strangers. A-Dub has not mastered this skill yet, so she has opted for silence. While my adroitness at this new skill has afforded me with a growing list of new congenial acquaintances, her failure to do so has resulted in an inverse problem. I have to decide how many people I can afford to let into my circle, while she has to decide how many people she can afford to let out. She calls this number an “optimal number of friends.”

While extroverts gather friends in every city and country they travel to, introverts tend to keep the same friends they have known the majority of their life time. Extroverts shop for friends like trinkets, while introverts collect them like treasure. My sister fits in this latter group. That’s why the conversation she had with a friend a few weeks ago put her in somewhat of a quagmire. It was contrary to everything that was part of her nature.

Her friend (we’ll just call her ‘Shequan’) is very fashionable. I’ve seen pictures of Shequan, and she fits nicely into a certain prototype. Being a large, or curvy, Black woman in a major urban area, she has adopted the persona of a ‘diva’ complete with hair extensions and full glam make-up. She is also a regular shopper on an online retailer that makes replicas of celebrity outfits that translate into mainstream life. The sell for this site is that all the garments are true to size, i.e. no matter your bust, waist or hip measurements, if you wear a size 6, you should be able to fit into any size 6 garment on their racks.

Shequan –who is now 7 months pregnant – had purchased a jumpsuit that was replicated after something that Beyonce wore last season. After getting it in the mail and trying it on, Shequan was completely miffed.

“I’m so angry!” she complained to my sister. “I spent a lot of money on that outfit, and it doesn’t fit right.”

My sister was very sympathetic. Being a spend thrift AS WELL as an introvert (I have resisted the urge to call her a hermit and a miser, you should be proud to note), nothing pains her more than seeing money wasted on an item one cannot use. And what is more useless than a dress that you can’t wear?

“I’d send it back,” she said emphatically. “I don’t care how good it looked when you got it out the box.”

Her friend nodded in agreement, disappointment clouding her continence.

“I just feel like I was lied to,” she continued. “This was clearly false advertising. There is NO WAY that this is anybody’s size 12.”

A-Dub bit her lip and choked down the words she so desperately wanted to say next. They tasted like bile as they slid back down her throat.

No, sweetie, they are somebody’s size 12…just not yours.

You see, Shequan is a solid size 20, and incidentally two sizes bigger than yours truly. Yours truly knows better than to kid herself into thinking she has any business sniffing around a size 12 anything – unless it’s 12 scoops of ice-cream. And it’s not that Shequan is some questionable hood rat character – quite the contrary. She is an accomplished Black woman with a degree… she just makes questionable fashion choices.

After Shequan returned the offensive item, she invited my sister to go shopping with her in order to remedy the wrong that had been done to her. She made a beeline for the juniors section, calling for A-Dub to join her over there.

“Naw…I’m just going to go to the misses section,” she said in a way that would encourage Shequan to join her. “They make allowances for women with hips….”

She let her voice trail off. Shequan did not take the bait.

“Girl, aint no way nothing over there would fit me,” she sniffed. “I’m a junior 15 at the most.”

A-Dub just nodded her head and continued her window shopping. What was the point in arguing with this high school student trapped in Grandma’s ample bosomed body? After all, she had an optimal number of friends to keep, and losing Shequan’s camaraderie by telling her she was too fat to be shopping in Juniors’ would upset that delicate balance.

 I think she’s being a worse friend my letting this grown woman walk around in too tight booty shorts and low cut tops, but that’s just me. Can you tell your friends the truth? Can you even afford to?? Are you a better friend if you let them wallow in happy ignorance, or pull them out by the crack of their junior sized denim shorts? I’m at Barnes & Noble with my coffee. I can’t wait to hear this!

Taking Cues from Couple Watching

All I wanted to do was fart; but I couldn’t. We were in sophisticated company and it wouldn’t do to let one rip out there on the elevated terrace of JCT Kitchen in the heart of Midtown. The Garners had invited us out for a birthday celebration, and it was the first big social gathering I had been to in months. The last one was for Mrs. Garner’s bridal shower at Wine Shoe. Somehow, this couple was the only one who had been successful at coaxing me out of my house in semi-formal attire and heels. Ever since the third baby was born, the epitome of my social experiences has been a night at the Cheese Cake Factory, possibly preceded by a movie. I am always in bed by 11pm.

So there I stood, in my belted midnight blue dress and plum snakeskin heels, making twin attempts at small talk and containing the fire in my bowels that threatened to explode at any minute. I appreciated the ambiance of the venue. The crowd was young – no person was older than 38 – and there was a steady stream of rich folk laughter permeating the air. Nearly everyone had shown up in a couple, except for the trio of aggressive-looking single Black women who went over to greet the host with a hug, breasts first. Somehow their tatted necks, sparkly eye shadow and orange tinted coifs made sense against the backdrop of votive candles and potted lemon trees.

I don’t know about my husband, but I felt like an antiquity among this group of newly married and freshly coupled individuals. While our conversation centered around what our fourth child was up to, many of them were carrying on about their new apartments in Buckhead, or some new project they were working on at work, or a Braves game they had just come from. I was boring, and I knew it. Boring and gassy. Oh God.

Not only was my conversation vastly different from these late twenty-something folks, but so was my body language. That could have been attributed to the fact that I had stuffed my feet into unfamiliar heels, but I don’t think that was the case. I watched as most of the girls leaned into the chests and ears of their partners, as if sharing intimacies than no one else should be privy to. This only made me lean in closer.

“You wanna another beer?” asked the husband of one of my old co-workers who was there.

“Sure,” she smiled, her blue eyes twinkling.

What was so intimate about that? Nothing – but somehow he had managed to make the question unquestionably seductive, as though he were asking if she’s like to shag in the presence of all these strangers. I felt dirty and intrusive. Marshall was standing behind me and tapped me on my shoulder.

“Do you want something to drink?” he asked.

It was a simple question, and very direct. There was no sex in it at all.

“Yes,” I said. “Lemonade please.”

When he returned I downed it in four gulps. Not only was I gassy, but I was also sweaty and thirsty. Finally when I could take it no more, I said my goodbyes and left with my husband in tow. An hour and a half was a respectable amount of time.

“There’s a full moon,” I explained. “I don’t want to transform into a werewolf and frighten your guests.”

The Garners laughed and we were allowed to leave.

The night was still young, so we decided to grab some desert from Café Intermezzo, which is a premier dating spot in metro Atlanta. My husband is an unabashed romantic, and revels in any opportunity to show physical affection to his wife, especially in public. However, that evening showed me that he wasn’t doing it right.

For starters, he was holding my hand. I noticed that virtually every woman was being led to their destination by her butt. Literally.

“When did guys start guiding women by their butt cheeks?” I asked Marshall.

“What?” he chuckled.

“Look over there,” I said. “That guy has his hand on her butt, propelling her forward.”

A few more couples passed and I saw a repetition of the same phenomenon.

“And look at him!” I whispered non-too-softly. “His hand is just above her butt, but just barely.”

“Do you want me to start guiding you by your butt cheeks too?” Marshall offered.

“No,” I said quickly. “I’m good.”

Marshall’s hand is enormous- a palm width of about 6 inches- and my butt is expansive. It would be an entirely inappropriate sight.

However I can’t help but wonder if I should present my posterior as a tether by which to be led by. Is being shepherded by the butt cheek the new “in” thing to do? Like sharing milkshakes from two straws in the 50’s was?

Tom Brady seems to think so.

However given my propensity for gas, it might not be the safest (or sexiest) route for anyone involved. I’m no Gisele Bundchen.

These People Want Me to Face the Firing Squad, Eh?

*I typically reserve Friday for frivolity, HOWEVER (!) this one di333, I have to speak on it! Prepare yourself for Bush Woman Mode!

When you’re a parent, life will bring you a whole host of ‘firsts’, as long as you have a child in your life. Some ‘firsts’ you dread, while there are others that you eagerly look forward to. Your child’s first day at school, first kiss, first date, first car wreck and first broken heart usually make the list.

But what about your child’s first dirty slap?

Yesterday I was lying in bed watching Millionaire Matchmaker (which was supposed to be a more sophisticated departure from my usual afternoon with Maury) while I waited to pick the kids up from the bus stop. My friend the Island Lady had already called me during the commercial break, and yet five minutes later my phone was ringing again. Ah. What did she want again?! This time I ignored her call and let it go to voicemail.

“Malaka! Call me back as SOON as you get this message!”

I noted the urgency in her voice, but I admit that urgent matters as they pertain to her usually revolve around the need to vent about something in her personal life. I didn’t feel like hearing it right then. Brad was about to decide which girl he was going to take on his master date. Ah! Why was she ringing my phone again!

“Hey, Island Lady! I was just about to call you,” I lied.

“Find out from your daughter what happened!” she shouted. “I’m so sick of that boy! That stupid little trouble maker! He slapped her!”

I gasped.

“Somebody slapped Kayla?” I asked incredulously. Who dared to slap her child? I wondered what Island Lady was going to do to them. She has an awful temper.

“No,” she growled. “The boy slapped NADJAH.”

My blood suddenly ran cold. I sat up straight in my bed. The hell??

Suddenly I was putting on my shoes and running for my car. The phone was still glued to my ear.

“I don’t know where I’m going, but wherever it is, I’ll call you when I reach there. Island Lady, I’m going to beat somebody and their child today!”

She cut me off so that she could run down the list of this boy’s infractions as she knew them. He was constantly kicking people. He couldn’t go on field trips without his mother because he was so hard to control. The more she talked, the more I hated him. To say that I was pissed would be conservative.

Let’s just fast forward to the event itself, shall we?

My child, my first born child, was helping another student by putting a piece of paper he had dropped back into his backpack. Suddenly, this Adam boy whips around from nowhere and hits her.

“It’s none of your business he shouted!”

When she ignored him, he slapped her harder – so hard that she hit the wall.

Let that sink in for a moment. You see how I’m feeling? Okay. Let’s continue.

Now in the past, I have gotten a phone call, email or written note from Nadjah’s teacher if she spoke out of turn, yelled at another student, or ran out of the classroom in a fit. However this time when Nadjah is assaulted, I got nothing but silence. So it was incumbent upon me to craft an email and request that it be sent to the boy’s parents. It’s probably better if I don’t mention what that email said. Don’t worry, I was cordial.

But that’s what is paining me! I don’t want to be cordial. I want to put on my blowman/soldierman uniform, slather my face with commando war paint and wait for this foolish boy at the playground and lash him myself! However, now that I have joined this vanguard of Negros who has tasked themselves with rehabilitating our tattered Black image, I can’t indulge in my most primal desires and react viscerally.

AAAAHHHHH!!!

Do you know what was even more annoying? The boy never apologized, and Nadjah never hit him back.

“Why not?” I asked, rather bewildered.

“I wanted to,” she admitted, “but if I did that would be fighting and I would get in trouble too.”

Have you seen? Have you seen?!? This is how bullies are made! They know that no one will hit them back!

So now I find myself on this diplomatic course, forced to employ decorum and NOT go and hide in the bushes to lay in wait for Adam. Instead, I have to wear heels and a nice dress to meet these people so that this boy and his family know that Nadjah is not some fiyanga girl that he can just abuse whenever he sees fit. They are lucky this is Roswell. If we were living in Decatur or the Congo this blog would have ended very differently!

Has your child ever been assaulted in school? How did you handle it? Better yet, how would have liked to have handled it? Is there any other mother out there who can feel me in my rage??

My Five Year Old Likes to do Hair

In case you missed it earlier this week, the interwebs were thrown into a tizzy when a mommy blogger wrote about her four year old daughter’s fascination with make-up. As your humble media servant, I have done you a favor and posted the link here so that you can read and watch for yourself something I refer to as “Things-White-people-care-about-that-don’t-make-a-bit-of-difference- in-the-grand-scheme-of-things.”

On my list of things that matter, whether a four year old girl likes to play in make-up rank at about 4…where 4 million is the highest priority. World hunger? That’s right at the top of the list. This? Meh.

Look, the deal is, kids emulate what they see; and as any ardent watcher of Dr. Phil will tell you, the same sex parent is the single most powerful influencer in a young child’s life. If Mommy likes to wear make-up, then little Suzie will most likely want to give face painting a go too.

As usual, physiologists came pouring out of the woodwork like termites after a thunderstorm, prophesying that this mother and all who follow in her wake were setting their female offspring onto a destructive path riddled with low self-esteem and body image dysmorphia. The child will learn that she is only pretty when she puts on make-up, and this is not a healthy image for young girls to have of themselves. Other more radical folk (better known as trolls) said that by letting her four year old play in make-up, she was setting her up to be a slut. You have only to watch the video to see how ridiculous either assertion is.

I think a good question to ask is: when is it too early to start caring about one’s image?

My 5 year old loves to do hair. She is constantly tugging at her twists, trying to fashion them into a side swept pony tail (with a fringe in the front); or an updo (with a fringe in the front); or a demure bun in the back (with a fringe in the front). She likes fringes. Is she obsessed with her hair? By the endless amounts of grease and water she applies to it, I think so…but I think it’s a healthy obsession. I’d much rather her want to leave the house with a sense of style than with a rat’s nest perched atop her dome.

So what is the difference between my little girl and the little girl who is attracted to glittery eye shadow and hot pink lipstick? None at all. My job as a parent is to make sure that before she leaves the house, she is attired and adorned appropriately – and that may mean wiping off a caked on layer of lipstick or putting a braid back in its proper place.

This whole “too young to wear make-up” brouhaha only confirms, once again, that adults are projecting their experiences on children and have sexualized their innocence in their own minds. What’s next? Are we going to demand Fisher-Price stop manufacturing toy houses because it might promote promiscuity in toddlers? I mean, why else would a “single girl” invite a “nice boy” over to her house to “play”?

Let’s all hold hands and get a grip.

A Very WIC-y Situation

I emptied my groceries from my cart and laid them onto the conveyor belt to check out. I had dutifully separated them as the guidelines required. In the past, when I had my WIC approved groceries mixed in with the items I actually wanted, the cashier and I spent an additional five minutes separating and paying for them by the government issued coupon. Beans, rice and peanut butter on one; cheese, eggs and milk were on the other. There was a completely separate certificate for the much needed formula. I was so stressed out after being left to fend for my infant daughter that I was incapable of producing enough milk to feed her. Working a full time job and figuring out life as a single mother afforded me little time or experience to pump the 48 ounces a day that she needed to survive.

I come from culture wherein if one wants to eat, one must work very hard for it. Even the beggar on the street must spend endless hours in the unforgiving sun and dusty heat to earn his day’s wages. In America, success comes by pulling one’s self up by their bootstraps; in Ghana very few are given boots to begin with. After meticulously crafting your footwear (and its straps) from any available raw materials, you can THEN begin the process of self-ascension. That’s why the cashier’s words came at such a blow to me and to my self-esteem.

“You can’t buy THAT peanut butter,” she snapped, her face contorted in disgust.

“Why not?” I whispered. “It’s on the coupon…”

She cut me off.

“This peanut butter has honey in it. The peanut butter you’re allowed to get does not. It has to be plain!”

I didn’t dare argue with her. Her chubby Asian face was twisted in such a rage that any protestation would only provoke her. Not that I would have protested. I was already so ashamed that I was on public assistance that I felt her contempt for me was somehow warranted. I meekly asked her to take the peanut butter off and just scan the rest of my items. I just wanted to flee as fast as I could.

The shame that I felt that day – and for the entire year I was on WIC – was one of the many reasons I found it hard to forgive my first born’s biological father. My feelings were a mix of contempt and longing; Contempt for him for landing me where I was and for myself for wanting him to play a more supportive role. This was something I was supposed to be able to do on my own. Eventually I got married and my college sweetheart saved me and my child from certain poverty. The cost of daycare alone was 60% of my paycheck! That’s why I feel so deeply for single mothers.

The recent ‘War Against Moms’ brought these old feelings to a surface in the last few days. With each side volleying attacks against the other, claiming that each is out of touch with the struggles. I don’t know if either side really gets it though. The conservative right proudly touts motherhood as a job (which it surely is) and thereby crowns women in these upper echelons as saints. The liberal left presents its poster child for motherhood: the impoverished woman who depends heavily on government welfare (through no fault of her own, or course) and is therefore worthy of collective pity.

And then there’s me, and thousands of women like me. No one is championing on our narrative. Women like me are just middle of the road masses, who by some unfortunate circumstance may find themselves in need of WIC or TANF. But because we are neither very rich nor very poor and there is no true political party that represents middle America, it is presumptive that we belong to the latter group. With my WIC checks and Black skin, it would only be reasonable to assume that I would be a welfare queen.

My sense of shame with this perception was so deep that I literally ran out of the grocery store a few days ago. My neighbor has two boys and has a third child on the way. She has been haranguing her fiancé to get married for months and he has so far eluded this trap. According to conservative doctrine, she was right to keep her children. Life is precious and should not be destroyed in the womb. Being a single mother with children so young, she of course qualifies for WIC. I did not know this when she knocked on my door and asked for a ride to the grocery store. Her car had a flat tire in the driveway.

I followed her around as she chatted away about making salmon for the boys and picked up some essentials: bread, milk, etc. We laughed and browsed the aisles leisurely. I didn’t have anywhere I needed to be and I genuinely enjoy her company. All was well until she got to the check-out line.

“I’d like to pay for these separately,” she told the cashier. “These go on my food card, and the others I’ll pay for in cash.”

I felt anxiety rising in me like a volcano. My heart threatened to leap out of my chest. Here we were, two Black women in line with a food card, and dressed so casually too. If we both had jobs, we would have no business being in the grocery store at one o’clock in the afternoon, would we? If we both had jobs, there would be no need for a food card, would there? The old sense of shame overtook me. I fled, telling her I’d be in the car when she was done.

Never mind that every cashier at Publix knows me and my husband.

Never mind that they all know that I am a stay-at-home-mom who has the good fortune to be able to afford her own food.

Never mind that the people at Publix have never treated me the way that that cashier at Wal-Mart did over seven years ago.

Never mind any of that.

There was a good mother trying to feed her children healthy food and I couldn’t even bear to watch her do it because of the stigma attached, and I didn’t want to be associated with that stigma. Now what is wrong with that picture?  What is wrong is that politicians (on both sides of the aisle) have legislated how and when we have our children and when and what they should eat with such breathtaking short sightedness that they did not pause to consider the long term effects on their test subjects. I somehow doubt the emotional aspects of pride and shame in how and when one feeds ones children were deliberated in the halls of congress. And somehow, I think they should have.

Have you ever been on public assistance? What are your views of people on public assistance? Confess all in the comments box, but think carefully before you hit ‘submit’.  ;)