Monthly Archives: April 2013

The World Natural Hair Show: 2013

*Sigh!!!* I should have taken more pictures…

There are two things I look forward to every year: Our annual vacation overseas, and the Natural hair show in Atlanta. (There was a time I looked forward to three things every year, but now that my uterus is no longer serving as a baby vending machine, I have pared those anticipations down to two.)

This Saturday I went to the Hair Expo with my longtime friend G. Berry, who was attending for the first time. Our combined excitement made it almost unbearable for me. I couldn’t wait to get inside and share with her the wonders of the show!

The we took a look at the line, which literally went down the length of the International Convention…no shorter than the 90 yards long. Our hearts sank. A burly female security guard vigilantly watching the main entrance confirmed that we would have to get in line and buy our tickets from one of the 3 open windows. This was insane! There were Black people – beautiful, Black people – everywhere, but we needed fewer of them around in that space and time to get our tickets faster. Eventually we spotted a tiny man with locks and Malcolm X glasses holding wrist bands and a hand full of money somewhere on the perimeter of the line. We descended on him like a flock of hungry gulls on a soggy loaf of bread. Golden wristbands in hand, we skipped into the show.

It was bigger and better than I remembered.

The lights were brighter, the stalls more elaborate and the attendees…have mercy! There was every style of dress you could imagine; Boho chic, Mother Earth, leather and lace, Africana, hip hop street wear and some other mess that I couldn’t quite categorize. Incidentally, I fell into this last group myself. I had attended a STEM Expo with the Girl Scouts earlier and was wearing a black peasant blouse, green khaki shorts, and Sperry’s.

Work usually interferes with the Natural Hair Show for me, but this year I had the day off. This was the first time I had been able to see any of the demonstrations that various vendors offered. There were two companies that nearly had me sold, and as an impulsive buyer I would have been trapped had G. Berry not warned me about their products.

“Girrrl, they sell that stuff at Sally’s,” she said with a laugh. “The sales lady told me it gets returned all the time.”

“What? Man, sometimes I think they pull people from the crowd who they know the product will work on.”

She looked at me quizzically.

“Well…yeah. It’s a classic snake oil salesman tactic.”

We pressed on through the throng of women milling through the wide aisles before stopping at an elevated stage where a young R&B songstress had just finished belting out some top 40 hit. A woman dressed in a black skin-tight unitard with 2 foot high shoulder straps embellished with silver studs and spikes encouraged the crowd to give it up for Somebody Michelle. (I didn’t catch the first part of her name.)

tita “Come on y’all! You can do better than that! Somebody Michelle!!”

Again, the crowd applauded weakly. I waited for her to yell “Randy Watson!!!” to make the moment complete. Alas, she did not.

The thing I like best about the Natural Hair Expo is that it is the culmination of every Tyler Perry imagination mad manifest at last. However, there are some things even the talented Mr. Perry cannot dream up. For example:

  • The 7 foot tall vegan man adorned in red, gold and green spontaneously dancing a wild samba/salsa/hip hop jig when some guy began to beat on his bongos on the same stage that Somebody Michelle had just occupied moments before.
  • The tiny Senegalese woman who was selling the most beautiful jewelry I’d seen in a while who refused to sell me her jewelry because I didn’t have enough money in the moment. “Do you have a shop in Atlanta that I can come visit later?” I asked. “No, I’m in Chicago,” she replied. “Oh good! I have a friend in Chicago. What’s the name of your shop?” “No, I am all over America,” she muttered. (It just dawned on me that she is probably an illegal gypsy alien.)
  • The woman dressed up as an ancient Egyptian despot, swanning  around the venue encouraging patrons to visit Luxor Couture. (Which I did. It was disappointing.) photo(9)

But none of that compared to one moment which will forever remained seared in my memory. Among the sea of buxom, Black beauties, there stood a frail ebony skinned woman clad in a flowing yellow skirt, cropped denim jacket and twists spiraling out of her pea sized head. She was standing behind a chorded veil that served as a partition between her and a low stage. From my vantage point, I saw her trip over a thick extension cord and stumble onto the stage ahead of cue as a woman with a crown of sister locks piled high on her head introduced her to a crowd of six people. Her voice was low and husky as she spoke.

“Ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters – allow me to introduce you to a sister who is going to bless us with powerful spoken word this evening. Put your hands together for Power spelled backwards: Reeeeeewop!!!!”

Rewop? Isn’t that the opposite of power? True to her stage name, she presented as something rather powerless. Her limbs were far too thin for the large wedge heels that engulfed her feet and she whispered her spoken word into a mic that appeared to shield her.

“I hear the ancestors calling me…I hear the ancestors calling me,” she said in a hushed voice.

Ah. But if you hear a group of dead people calling you, shouldn’t there be more urgency in your voice Ms. Wop? G. Berry and I shuttled past her, hardly able to contain our laughter. When the guy dressed up in Teddy Riley’s orange underpants and combat boots stomped in our direction, our stifled giggles gave way to full blown guffaws.

photo(8)Apart from all the spectacle and pageantry, the other magnificent thing about the Natural Hair Expo is the incredible kindness exhibited by many of the vendors there. Every year I meet a woman or group of women who take the time to time to share information about their products in earnest; not to merely try to sell you something. Last year it was Isis. This year, Shea Radiance (www.shearadiance.com) virtually blew me away with their customer service.

“No, we don’t have cocoa butter here, but we DO sell it. We can ship it to you as soon as we get back to Maryland,” said Karen.

photo(6) Karen and I got on well immediately. She’s from Ghana. I think she’s my cousin. Our noses are similar.

In my never ending quest to find the right product for my hair, I think I finally may have done so with DNA’s product line.

These are the results.

photo(7)

Have you ever been to a Hair Expo? What’s been your favorite memory? Obviously, I don’t expect many men to answer…unless they are commenting on the avalanche of product being hoarded by wives/girlfriends underneath the bathroom sink.

 

 

Mama Bear: Dream Killer

I realized just last night that I have come to a point in my motherhood journey where I no longer have funny little anecdotes about lack of sleep, getting peed and pooped on, or spending innumerable hours trying to decipher baby babel. “What comes next for me?” I’ve begun to wonder.Serendipitously, my wonderful friend, writer/expert mom/expert on life itself Julia N. gave me a glimpse into what the next phase of this mandate I’ve willingly taken on will look like and how I should begin to mentally prepare for it when she posted this note on Facebook. It’s just too good NOT to share! And so MOM Squad, from the woman who introduced me to Baby Wise, I give you Mama Bear: Destroyer of Lofty Dreams

*******

So Dean and I have begun having the what-do-you-want-to-do-when-you-grow-up talk with our kids in earnest. For efficiency’s sake, we are combining it with the make-sure-it-doesn’t-involve-living-off-us-forever talk and the don’t-confuse-a-hobby-with-a-career talk. As a start, I presented for their consideration a list of fifty decent jobs that require only a bachelor’s degree. We told them they are not limited to this list by any means. But they must begin to work on a life plan, and that plan must contain credible data to support it. Want to try for a long shot? No problem; just remember to present a backup plan as well.

I honestly have no idea if this is going to work, so check back with me in a few years and I’ll let you know. But I do know that at some point, when children are between the ages of 10 and 18, parents have the obligation to help them move from the dream of being Ironman (or a unicorn-riding fairy princess) to something a little more achievable. This might seem obvious, but if everyone approached parenting this way, there would be no American Idol auditions.

In fact, I have concluded that a growing number of parents are failing to help their teenagers make this transition. I’m not talking about the blatantly abusive parents who tell their children they’ll never amount to anything. I mean the nice, well-meaning parents who have embraced some fashionable lies which seem harmless enough until you field test them on an actual human:

 

Lie #1: Your child must pursue a career he “loves”

Much of popular culture (and many a parent) currently promotes the idea that you must exclusively pursue a career that you are deeply passionate about. Some even go so far as to imply that you are being inauthentic or untrue to yourself if you don’t spring out of bed each day just dying to go to work. This is why so many young people want to pursue careers music, sports or entertainment: they like listening to music, playing sports or watching television and movies. Well, I like eating pie, but no one is paying me to do it.

I am by no means suggesting that our kids should intentionally pursue careers that they will hate, nor am I saying it’s unrealistic that they could really enjoy their work in the future. But here’s the problem. Virtually every occupation imaginable comes with at least one annoying component. Policemen don’t just get to catch bad guys; they get shot at, spit on and spend hours filling out boring paperwork. Doctors have to see eighty patients an hour and worry about getting sued. And I am pretty sure that even Brad Pitt isn’t particularly passionate about filming a scene by the 17th take.

A big part of being able to enjoy a job is being mature enough to do what the job requires with a good attitude. Sure, we all want to work hard as long as we get paid a ton and our boss praises us on an hourly basis. And we all want to be our own bosses as long as we never have to worry about where the business is going to come from next month. But life doesn’t work that way for 99% of the human population. And as I tell my son almost every day, a crucial part of being an adult is making yourself do things you don’t always feel like doing. (For him, this is still includes showering and brushing his teeth.)

I have told my children that they must find a useful way to support themselves doing something they don’t hate. If that coincides with something they happen to love, wonderful! I will be the first one doing (figurative) back flips in celebration. But otherwise, they should be content to love their families, friends and hobbies and like (or even just tolerate) the way they make a living.

 

Lie #2: Your child is destined to be “great”

Okay. If what you mean by “great” is kind, polite, loving, hardworking and generous, then yes, everyone’s child can be great. But what a lot of people mean by “great” is famous, wealthy and universally recognized as the lord high master of something. And for many parents such grandeur kind of feels like fate. After all, they already “feel” just as proud of their child as if he had already cured cancer or won the presidency, so it’s only a matter of time before he achieves something that merits that emotion from anyone other than a parent.

I have a daughter who has been in gymnastics since the age of three, so I am well-acquainted with the culture of parental delusion. After all, 95% of parents whose daughters have been in gymnastics since the age of three believe that their daughter is going to be one of the five girls who will represent the United States in the Olympics in a given quad. (It is also true that 95% of the parents whose daughters are NOT in gymnastics cannot understand why in the world your daughter would put so much time and effort into it if she is NOT going to the Olympics. But that is a separate issue.)

Now a handful of gym parents have good reason to believe their kids are going to the Olympics: as of this writing, they have last names like Biles, Key and Ohashi. (Google if you’re curious.) But the larger problem remains: belief and desire alone DO NOT make dreams come true. And if emotions were an accurate gauge of destiny, there would be thousands more gymnasts in the Olympics, and everyone would win gold.

 

Lie #3: You must “believe” in your child’s dream, no matter how ridiculous or narcissistic it is

Parents who are willing and able to support their children financially for the foreseeable future a la Buster Bluth are free to encourage them to pursue careers in Cartography or Native American Dance. But the rest of us have a moral obligation to help our children be a little more realistic. If they want to aim high, great! But we have to help them count the cost and come up with an alternative course of action in case the Big Dream doesn’t work out. Because at some point in one’s life aiming for a career as a successful, well-paid sculptor is not too different from wanting to be Ironman.

Without divulging any details that would hurt anyone’s feelings, I am personally acquainted with parents who have:

1.     Encouraged their teenager who was unable to make her high school swim team to pursue a dream of winning a gold medal in the Olympics (yes, for swimming)

2.     Encouraged their teenager who was getting C’s and D’s in on-level high school classes to pursue a dream of a career as a nuclear physicist

3.     Encouraged their sporadically homeschooled teenager who was several years behind in his work (due to parental negligence) to pursue a dream of attending Harvard University

4.     Encouraged an adult son who had no savings, no college degree, and significant debt to pursue a career in music (which the parents were unable to support)

I realize the world is full of inspiring people who successfully pursued such dreams against pretty heavy odds. But none of them were using “pursue your dream” as a euphemism for “develop a fantasy version of yourself and then imagine becoming that person in a short period of time with little to moderate effort.” The problem with these situations is not the dreams per se; it is the fact that the parents are encouraging the teens to fantasize about the outcome while failing to help them think through the step by step process of achieving it.

But in a larger sense, the teens who are overreaching so drastically are clearly not setting goals for the sake of challenging themselves, “being the best that they can be,” or using their future fame and money to “help others.” They probably just want an easy life and the envy of their peers. Any responsible parent must discern those motivations and explain that they are really stupid reasons to waste your parents’ money.

 

Lie #4: Laid back parents are less cruel than strict parents

I am not talking about temperament here; I am talking about what we require from our children on a daily basis. Amy Chua was almost universally excoriated for her Tiger Mom confessions, as if our country is overrun with dangerously well-behaved, high-achieving children. But here’s the thing: at least Tiger Parents put their money where their mouths are. They don’t just set high expectations; they do the work every day to ensure their children have the knowledge, habits, work ethic and attitude necessary to meet those expectations. Too many laid back parents just tell their kids to “go for it,” and call it a day.

Look, I am way too lazy qualify as a Tiger Mom. And I know (not from personal experience, but from the experiences of many of my friends) that endless hours of study and piano practicing take an emotional toll on a kid. But you know what else takes an emotional toll? Getting to age 30 and realizing that you have nothing to show for your life except a bed in your parents’ basement and eight leather-bound volumes of handwritten self-reflection. And at the end of the day, at least the Tiger-parented kid learned how to play the piano.

Once our kids reach a certain age, encouraging them to pursue their dreams but failing to help them count the cost is negligent and cruel. Of course some parents fail to be encouraging in the first place, and that sucks. But for emotionally normal people, “encouraging” is the fun part. Anyone can say, “Sure, son! That sounds like a great idea!” It takes significantly more effort to say, “Alrighty then. Come over here, and let’s look at the number of job openings for an entry-level journalist and see how much they pay.”

 

Lie #5: Your job as a parent is to make your teenager happy, not help him grow up

Some kids seem eager to take care of themselves from birth; others will reach their thirties still content to let Mom make dinner, do laundry, and tell everyone that they would have totally made it to the Olympics if it hadn’t been for that injury. It’s easy to help the first kind of kid grow up because she wants to. It’s harder to help the second kind, because it feels like you are forcing him (because you are).

But the fact remains that until our (non-special needs) kids are responsible, independent adults, we haven’t finished our jobs. And just like the baby who gets picked up every time she cries will cry a whole lot, the teenager whose parents are more concerned with his temporary happiness than his long term ability to take care of himself probably has that basement apartment in his future.

The real world can be a cruel and unforgiving place. If we send our children into it with an inflated sense of their own importance and skill, we are ultimately asking society do the dirty work of parenting for us. But is it really such a good idea to let the bad cop beat the snot out of our kids just so we can stay the good cop?

I don’t know what the future holds for my kids, and like any parent, that fills me with a combination of excitement and terror. And some days it doesn’t feel any easier to prepare a teenager to think realistically than it feels to get a squirmy toddler into a car seat for her own protection. But it’s possible. And it’s necessary. And at the end of the day, maybe that’s all we need to know.

My Father’s Epic 20 Minute Rant on Obama, Ambolley and Current Events

My Aunt Elizabeth passed away a little less than a month ago and was buried over the weekend. She was a three years older than my dad and was one of my favorites. With the stark reminder that all life comes with an expiration date, I decided to call the old man to check up on him.

He didn’t pick up his cell phone. I called all three of his numbers and none of them was working.

I panicked.

“A-Dub, have you talked to Daddy?” I asked my sister, texting frantically.

“Not in over a week…which is actually odd,” she replied. “He calls pretty often.

I fretted about who I could send to his house to find him and came up empty. Was my dad okay?? The next day, I called again. He picked up on the second ring.

“Ah! Kwasi Gyekye…where were you!” I hollered into the phone.

“What do you mean?”

“I called you yesterday and you didn’t pick up,” I wailed.

daddy“Oh that’s nonsense. I always have all of my phones with me.”

I explained that I got an error message on each of his phones when I called the night before. He snorted.

“Oh. That’s Ghana networks for you. I can be sitting in my house, dial one of the phones in my hand, and the network will tell me that the number is unavailable.”

“Really?”

“Humph. Yes ooo,” he said, settling back into his chair (I could hear him). “I even contacted the phone company to complain. The rep told me I had probably diverted my phone calls. How can I divert my own calls?! Do I have a network machine in the house? I told him he was a fool.”

I laughed, but he could tell something was worrying me. He asked me what was wrong.

“Nothing. I was just thinking about Aunty Elizabeth…”

“And what? You thought I had died?” he asked, breaking into my explanation.

“Well, I couldn’t find you…”

He snorted again.

“Look. When I’m about to die, I will inform you first. I won’t die without you knowing.”

We both broke into hysterical laughter over the absurdity of that statement. I thanked him for his consideration and changed topics.

“Eii, Daddy! Guess who is my best friend on Twitter?”

“What’s Twitter?”

I gave a two by four explanation of the SM platform and told him all about the Great Gyedu-Blay Ambolley.

ambol“Eh? You said who? Ambolley?”

“Yes!” I said, cackling gleefully. “He said when we see each other in Ghana we can do a song together!”

“Umm! Has he heard your voice before? You sing worse than your sister…and even she di33, she only hums.”

(I broke into wild laughter. My sister DOES have a crap singing voice.)

“And why would Ambolley be friends with a foolish girl like you?”

(I laughed harder. I AM a foolish girl.)

“I used to listen to his music when I was young…but then I grew up and learned sense. You know, when you go to these live bands, they can sing EEEEVERY song…except Ambolley.”

“I told him I would brush up on my Fante so I can sing with him,” I replied.

“You don’t have to brush up on anything. You can’t sing his songs, because he doesn’t sing in words. He only makes noises. He’s like James Brown.

Eh eh eh plee! Say ‘i lah! Heh ho whaa?

Those people don’t use words to sing. Those bush Takoradi things.”

“He’s from Sekondi, Daddy.”

“Whatever. It’s all the same thing!”

I laughed some more, which alarmed him.

“What’s wrong with you? Why do you sound like you’re choking?”

“Nothing, Daddy.”

“Gyedu-Blay Ambolley…” He let his voice trail off and chuckled. “That’s pretty cool.”

He asked me about some flooding in my area.

“We didn’t have a flood, Daddy.”

“Yeah, I know. That was Mississippi. It’s all America, isn’t it? And hey! What about that Boston Bombing!”

“It was awful, wasn’t it?” I said soberly.

“They should let me be his executioner. Foolish boy. I would pull his fingernails out one by one and then extract his teeth with pliers; but only to a point. Then I would make him chew meat with half attached teeth!”

“Oh, Daddy!”

“No! I’m serious! Why should you go and bomb people as they’ve gathered just to have fun? Now look! You’ve killed an 8 year old boy. If you want to declare war on America, engage the military! Sit in your house and declare war…then we’ll see if you are a man. Foolish boys! The elder one is very lucky that he even died.”

“Yes ooo. They are keeping this one alive just to kill him in a few years.”

“Yes, it’s good,” my father replied. I could hear his head bobbing. “They have to extract the truth from him first. That’s one thing I like about Americans. And hei! Did you see Obama’s speech after the bombing?”

He didn’t wait for my reply.

My Obama was so cooool. He said ‘Whoever is responsible will be found’, and look! Three days later, these boys were captured.”

“Hmmm. As for Obama, he’s a killer.”

My father chuckled to himself, as if harboring the details of some secret agreement between him and the leader of the free world.

“No, I’m serious, Daddy. People think George Bush was a killer, but Obama has killed more people in his 5 years than Bush did in all 8!”

“Yes. That’s what we niggez (because he would never say “nigger”) do. We’re killers! You have an African ruling your country. What did you expect? You see, within just a few short months he was able to kill Bin Laden, Gadhafi, and several people you’ve never heard of. George Bush just used to talk plenty. That’s why the world didn’t mind him. But MY Obama is cooooool. He’s like a river.”

“Huh?”

“A river, dummy! When the waters are too hot and you put your feet inside, you know the water is dangerous. You say “ajeish!” and you step out. But when the waters are cool, you feel safe to relax inside. It’s only cool waters that carry people away…and drown them. Like Obama.”

I thought I would literally die on the phone. But he wasn’t done yet.

“In fact, you people should elect him as president for life.”

“We can’t do that, Daddy. This isn’t the United States of Zimbabwe. Obama is not Mugabe.”

“Well then, you need to draw up an amendment that says every subsequent president must rename himself ‘Obama’.”

“Ah, but Hilary says she also wants to have her turn on the throne oooo…”

“Hilary can’t do sh*t,” he said flatly.

Oh chaley!

My minutes were up. The lady on the phone card said so. My dad heard it too.

“Oh, don’t worry! I’ll buy some credits and call you later.”

malaG“But I have to work until 10 pm tonight,” I said quickly. 30 seconds left.

“Don’t worry! It’s only 2 am my time. I can stay up till 2 to talk to you!”

*Click.*

I didn’t even get a chance to tell him I loved him, but I’m sure he knows.

Boys Should Be Tough and Strong…I Think.

I’ve written frequently about my fears about raising a Black boy in America. I read somewhere that there is nothing quite so loathsome as an 8 year old Black boy. They travel in packs, they get into stuff, and they’re no longer considered as “cute” and “harmless” as they previously may have been before they reached the milestone of making it to the third grade. I don’t know about other races, but you have to be careful about how you raise Black sons. Raise them too soft, and the streets will be them. Raise them to be too tough, and the cops will get them. Fortunately, I had a solution in mind; one that would solve everything!

When I found out I was pregnant with Stone, I already had an idea of the sort of young man I wanted to raise. He would be handsome (of course), well mannered, considerate, sensitive and intelligent. I would clothe him in argyle and dress shoes, and teach him to observe the natural world and draw conclusions from it. I would raise the proverbial Renaissance Man. And Stone is certainly all these things – but I have recently discovered that when I was making my list of attributes to be assigned to my brewing baby boy, I forgot to add “brave”.

You see, to my horror, I have realized that my son is an unmitigated wuss.

photo(5)For the last three years I have delighted in his early morning nuzzles and squeals (yes – squeals) of delight whenever we rode over abandoned train tracks somewhere in the city, but never in my wildest dreams did I considered that all that exuberance was masking something more sinister. It took a lizard to unearth the direful reality I am about to tell you about.
Two days ago, I was sitting on the couch enjoying one of the few moments of silence that infrequently descend upon our house when Stone burst through the front door. He had been outside riding his bike and was agitated by something.

“Mommy!” he screeched. “I saw a lizard!”

“Yeah…a lizard,” Liya echoed.

Well, I was thrilled. Lizards aren’t very common in this part of Georgia. Perhaps some had migrated up from Florida. This was wonderful news! We have lizards everywhere in Ghana, bobbing their heads up and down and doing “push-ups”. This was another part of our childhoods past and present that we could share!

“You did!” I exclaimed. “Well that’s wonderful!”

Stone looked at me quizzically.

“It scared me, Mommy!”

I pshaw-ed his statement and told him not to be silly.

“Lizards aren’t scary, boy,” I laughed.

That’s when he burst into tears. When I had the audacity to display shock, he began to shake uncontrollably, repeating again and again how scary the lizard was. Well what was I to do? His 2 year old sister was mocking him and my words were going over his head. I pulled him close and hugged him.

“It’s ok, Stone,” I soothed.

This only made him cry harder. Perhaps I was taking the wrong approach in coddling him? I released my grip and held him away from me.

“It’s ok!” I said, putting a little bit more bass in my voice. “You can’t be scared of lizards.”

“But I’m scared!” he wailed in objection.

The more I told him he couldn’t be, the more he insisted he was. This was becoming alarming. I did the only thing I knew to do to calm him down. I gave him a fistful of crackers and turned on a DVD – hating every moment that I was medicating him with food and cartoons. An hour later he declared he was ready to go back outside.

I relayed the incidents to my husband, who was equally unsettled. Marshall has always loved the outdoors, and has spent countless hours ambling about in the woods as a kid. The news that his son – Marshall Grant’s son! – was afraid of a lizard was therefore just as bad as Dale Earnhardt’s offspring declaring trepidation and horror at the sight of motor oil.

“You can’t be scared of lizards, boy!” he said, repeating what I had already told Stone earlier. “You’re a boy. Boys like dirt, bugs and reptiles.”

He grabbed his son and began to rough house with him. Stone wriggled away with a high pitched “no!”

I suddenly saw into his future, and I didn’t like what I saw. Stone has spent the last 4 years predominantly in the company of women. He has three sisters and his mother. His father comes home at 6 pm, sees him for 2 hours, and then he goes off to bed. His Pre-K teacher will most likely be a woman, as well be the director of his pre-k center and all the other people in authority who run the facility. In fact, all of his teachers up until fourth or fifth grade will most likely be female. He will only know female authority and most likely will not know how to handle a man’s heavy handedness and domineering nature in class. Oh heavens. He may even burst into tears the first time his male physics teacher booms: “No sir, Mr. Grant!” when works an equation incorrectly. And then what will his classmates think of my argyle clad, clean shaven prince?

My poor son!

I have wanted to put Stone in a sport since he turned 2, but I always came up with some excuse.

He wasn’t potty trained. No one could understand what he was saying. It conflicted with everyone else’s schedule.

The truth is, I don’t want some other little boy knocking my son around because his mammy didn’t have sense enough to teach him to keep his mitts to himself! One can’t (or shouldn’t) go around hitting other people’s kids because they injured your own. And so I kept my son safe at home, watched Barbie and Veggie Tales DVDs, rushing to his side every time he skinned his knee.
Now he’s afraid of lizards. And spiders. And bees.

*Siiiiggggh*

I can raise wonderful girls, but this boy thing is proving a lot tougher than I previously imaged. Surely I’m not the only parent to have this concern? Here’s a question for you dads: What would you do in this situation…or am I fretting over nothing? Did you grow up “sensitive” and turn out alright in the end? Discuss, discuss!

From the Mouth of Marshall: A Few Ramblings on Marriage, Money and Malaka

A few people called me “mad” for having a problem taking money from my husband, and I understand way. But even more interestingly, one commenter said that he and his wife have a similar dynamic in their home, and that he wondered what my husband’s perspective might be on the matter. After all, even when I quote my husband, it’s still from “the lens of my view” as the reader put it. I thought that was a brilliant! Marshall should do a post then! So after much arm and face twisting, I got him to do one…

——-

I love my wife.  Unfortunately, because the word “love” is often used in other phrases such as I love my car or I love my Mac, often times when expressed it rarely has much meaning other than one actually managed to get it out of his mouth.

So, as a result, I have spent the last 17 years trying to demonstrate “Love” to Malaka.  And don’t get me wrong.   I haven’t been the best at it.  I’ve said things that I should not have said.  I’ve done things I should not have done.   But in the end, my hope is that she knows to her core that her husband loves her.

——-

My marriage philosophy is quite simple:  If the husband is the head of the house, it also means he is the greatest servant in the house.  Why?  Because it’s far more honorable to do good than to simply look great and the surest way to become great is to do good.  This principle first starts with demonstrating it to my wife, then to my family, and ultimately to the world.

If I simply do good to look great to the world and NOT to my wife then I am a fraud; because the expression of who I am is demonstrated first to my wife.  If at heart I am a servant, then my wife gets the initial benefit of that servant-hood.  If at heart I am a Jerk, a-la Douche Bag, then my wife gets the initial benefit of me being a Jerk.

You’re not a man because of your age or your gender; you’re a man when demonstrate you can consistently think about someone other than yourself.  For example:

Can you give a woman what she needs emotionally from you rather than your need to have sex?

Can you keep yourself from consuming porn for the benefit of giving your wife your complete and unadulterated sexual desire?

Can you inconvenience yourself by often washing the clothes, bathing the kids, cleaning the kitchen, picking up after the kids, making the bed, and/or moping the floor to demonstrate to your wife that you value her and her time?

Can you give your wife money with no strings attached?

If you can answer no to these and many other questions I have, then you have some growing up to do Bro.

——-

My thoughts on money: Money makes the world go around, but in the end it really doesn’t.

Money is tool.  A tool doesn’t posses you, you posses the tool.  Sounds so simple but it’s true.  Have you ever heard the phrase, “…money answers all things”?  Have you ever wondered what that means?   I like this answer, “Money answers to every demand, hears every wish, grants whatever one logs for, and helps to all.”

Sometimes I feel like the biggest reason why money (in Western society) is the #1 reason why people get divorced is because, money is not a tool for success, but a tool for power.  After all why do you think men are typically the one’s who want control all the money in the house?

I have asked my wife to take control of our bills and bank account and she has often refused.  And to her credit she has refused because she is admittedly not very good with numbers, hence why I have to help her with her non profit’s taxes year after year.  And that is fair.  But my heart is let her know that I do not want to lord it over her just because I “win the bread” all day (and night).

In the final analysis, is money really THAT important?  Yes, money keeps a roof over our heads, feeds and clothes our children, but is it so important to cause us to fight?  To disrespect another human being because of how they spent it?  Or is it a two-person tool that requires everybody to lend a hand to make it work?

——-

If Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

If you haven’t already figured out, this post is in response to a comment on her recent post, “I have trouble taking money from my husband” where MartinT wanted to hear from my perspective.

Malaka accurately stated in her post that she has always had a problem taking money from anyone, let alone me.  And I understand why.  Most of it came from how she has been raised and in general the fact that she has a healthy fear of using “our” money.

I can respect that.

However, what I do not like is that she has to spend the majority of her day taking care of our demanding toddlers, not taking any time during the day for herself and then spending another 4 hours waiting on ungrateful customers in a service job that pays her a few pence per hour.  (Yes, that was a run-on sentence.)

What I do not like is that she then lumbers home at 10 – 10:30 PM after many hours on her feet at work often times sore, tired, and mentally exhausted.  I know my wife.  I know that if she doesn’t have a proper sleep, the Grant family’s whole day is screwed.  If my wife wakes up tired in the morning, she won’t have a good day, the kids will run her in circles and she will have a crap day.

So yes, giving her money when she needs it is an investment that will benefit all of us. Oddly, my ROI in giving her money is not only self-serving, but also considerate.  I mean, who benefits from her getting more sleep, her having a better day, hearing her laugh more often, or us having great sex because of all of the above?

The short answer is, everyone.

Duets with Ambolley: The World Ain’t Ready!

Every once in a while, something magical happens that shifts the course of your existence.

It’s rare that someone who does not bear the last name ‘Gyekye’ takes me by the hand and guides me into M.O.M. mode, but that’s what Gyedu-Blay Ambolley did last night. Like a newly dropped leaf floating wantonly on babbling, pebbled brook, I found myself flowing with the ebb and tide of the contents of Brah Blay’s most recent tweet.

Ambolley wants to drop an album with ME.

gbasong

Well, those weren’t his words exactly, but that’s what I’m going to aspire to: an entire album of duets with the originator of rap/skat/and hip-life and hop.

Brah Blay and I are best friends (on Black Twitter, anyways), so when he didn’t tell me it was his birthday last week, I was crushed. I should have known this, since we’ve had a friendship that has blossomed over the course of 63 days since we began following each other on Twitter. I mean, 63 days is enough time to get to know the innermost secrets of someone for whom you share mutual respect, right? And yes, I am vehemently asserting that Gyedu-Blay Ambolley respects me and is equally interested in all the things that are of importance to me – chocolate and Chick Fil-A being chief among these. Why else would he suggest that we perform together?

I’m sure you don’t believe me. And why should you? It sounds rather dubious…like the idle primary school yobbing we’ve all engaged in  - or at least witnessed – at some point.

“Ei! Me? My daddy owns Ghana Airways! We fly to London for free every long vac!” (Meanwhile, it’s only Kumasi the kid is traveling to ooo…)

“Oh. You – you think you be some hard guy eh? Me, my daddy owns a submarine!”

“You are a liar!”

“No. It’s true. We enter the sea every weekend!” (Meanwhile, it’s a common canoe at the Volta region that the kid is entering ooo…)

“As for me, I dropped  an album with Ambolley.”

This stuns the group into silence. Why, that would make this child a super star! The gaggle of uniformed juveniles pounces on the girl who is unforgivably guilty of making up an over-the-top toli tale.

“You Malaka Gyekye? How can you do a song with Ambolley?”

Album,” I reply.

“Liar!”

“It’s true! He even told me to wear a yellow dress.”

dressgba

I then describe the second greatest night of my musical life. (Nothing can top seeing Prince in concert for the first time.)

******

yellow hatThe year was 2013. Lycra was making a comeback, and I was wearing it in abundance. Everything had to be perfect for Gyedu-Blay Ambolley. I mean, it’s not every day that an icon of African music invites you to share the stage with him. It was an occasion that demanded opulence, pomp and circumstance. I squeezed into my yellow sequenced, tasseled, bedazzled dress, complete with a hat fashioned from yolk colored plumage. A glance in the mirror and a self-affirming nod of the head told me I was ready.

We were going to perform the album live at Alliance Francaise. Wanlov the Kubolor and Sister Derrrrrbie were there as well. I’d asked the siblings to join me for waakye in a leaf earlier in the day, but they’d shunned me. It was okay though. Because I was now Cinderella and I had entered the ballroom in all my glory. I was going to be dancing with the King tonight, and they would be mere g-dancers!

Brah Blay benevolently took my hand and brought me to the microphone.

“You look…interesting this evening,” he said, smiling behind a newly grown mustache.

“Thank you!” I yelled above the raucous sound of the band playing behind us.

The sound of my euphoric voice carried over the crowd which had gathered for the show.

“You’re welcome!” they shouted back.

Brah Blay nodded and said it was time. We were going to sing some of his greatest hits, but I don’t speak Fanti. He told me I could just do a head banger and shout out affirmations from the background.

“You mean like P-Diddy?” I queried.

jon “Or L’il Jon, if you like.”

This was too good to be true.

“Yeah!!!!” I growled enthusiastically. “Let’s do eht!”

Everything in my life had prepared me for this moment. A decade of listening to crunk during my self-imposed exile in Atlanta, summer vacations at Winneba, a year of eating nothing but gari and rice because that’s all we could afford…

I poured all my passion and pain into the vocals. I blended old school and new into a masterful, melodious piece. Brah Blah was dazed by this dexterous musical display.

Eh zimi rrra mi mi rarara…WHO-WHAT?!?!

******

I looked at my audience, who sat spellbound.

“What happened next?”

“Well…actually…it hasn’t come to pass yet. But it will! Time is linear as you know. I just have to wait for the fruit to bear.”

“There are some in physics who would refute that, you know.”

“What?”

“That time is linear.”

“Whatever,” I sniff. “The point is that Gyedu-Blay Ambolley and I made a song, and I was wearing a yellow dress.”

“I thought you said it was an album…”

“Let’s keep our focus on what’s important, okay!?!?”

******

MOM Mode, mitches! Happy Friday.

I Have Trouble Taking Money From My Husband

My husband is a wonderful man and an excellent spouse. I’ve extolled his virtues on M.O.M. on so many occasions that I’ve had to stop for fear of being accused of idol worship or braggadocio. After all, with 50-60% of all Christian marriages ending in divorce, wouldn’t it appear conceited for me to talk about how wonderful my husband is? What cockiness!

I’ve openly discussed the issues that Marshall and I have had over the years, but I can honestly (and gratefully) say that those issues have never included the following:

  1. His not having a job
  2. His not helping with the children
  3. His failure to communicate

Like any relationship, Marshall’s and mine has had its own unique set of challenges over time. At the moment, our challenge is that I have a hard time accepting money from my husband. This is more my dysfunction than his, but it still affects him indirectly.

Last night I got off of work at BS&W and midnight. Did I want to be at a shoe store that late into the night? Absolutely not. But I needed the money to pay for a project I’m working on, so I had to put in the hours. When I got home at 12:30 am, Marshall was still up waiting for me so he could at least see me. I said some brief words in greeting, got into the shower, crawled into bed, and fell into a coma. The next morning, Marshall asked me why I was working so hard. I explained my reasons.

“Well do you want me to just give you the money so you don’t have to work so hard?” he offered.

I balked at the very notion of him giving me money for a personal project. Like many marriages like ours, I stay home to look after the kids and he goes to work. His income pays for EVERYTHING. It wasn’t always like this, of course. I had a job once, and a good paying one too. I’ve lived my life paying my own way for everything. I couldn’t accept money from my husband.

“No, no,” I said quickly. “This is something I have to do on my own.”

“But it’s not a lot of money,” he countered. “And I just got a check from a project I’ve been working on…”

I repeated that I wanted to do this on my own and went back to doing dishes or eating chocolate – I can’t remember which.

I don’t know if this is a problem that other married women struggle with, but my single friends have assured me that I’m stark, raving MAD.

“Ah. Isn’t this what husbands are for?” said one (a Ghanaian).

“Girl, us single gals are TRYING to find a guy to pay for stuff,” said another (a White girl from the South).

Recognizing that my perceived insanity was not cultural (after all, an African AND an American had just told me I was being foolish) I decided to talk to my husband about it. Maybe there was something wrong with me?

moneyHe knows that I have an abnormal relationship with money, because I didn’t grow up with much. I was more often than not on the receiving end of a gift, and it’s made it hard for me to accept generosity from others. I hate feeling like a charity case…and when I spend my husband’s money, I feel like it’s just that: charity.

“Babe,” I began, “I want to talk about why I can’t take money from you…or why I have a hard time at least.”

“Okay; but I already know why that is,” he said sagely.

“Eh? Why is it then?”

I barely knew myself. How could he possibly know?

“Because you’re a first born and self-sustainer,” he said simply. “I’m the same way. I couldn’t live on anyone’s handouts.”

Self-sustainer. I wrote that down on our whiteboard. That was a new term to me.

“Okay, cool. Then you understand,” I said. “Well, I feel bad that I can’t take your money. I think it would make me less of a woman.”

“How is that? Every time you use your debit card you ‘take my money’.”

He laughed in that way that makes me feel like an idiot. I immediately bristled.

“Ah! When I use the debit card, I’m using it to feed the kids or buy something for the house. I’m talking about going shopping for myself, or in this case, needing $x00 to fund my project.”

“That’s because you’re selfish,” he replied.

“What?”

How could I be selfish? Wasn’t I being the very opposite of ‘selfish’?

“Yes, selfish,” he continued. “You need to write down ‘value’ on the board too. You don’t think that I value you you enough to try to make your life better, or work for the children and all the stuff we do have.”

I found it hard to argue with that, so I used the best defense I could conjure: The one time that he said something that made me feel less than valued. It had to do with the car he’d just bought in October.

“Remember when you told me YOU had worked very hard to afford that car? I felt like you were saying that because I didn’t have a job that generates as much money as yours does that I was not as valuable.”

“Well, Malaka, I did work hard to pay for the car…but that’s not what I said to you. Don’t misquote me.”

“I’m just saying that’s how I felt.”

I quickly realized that I was failing to make my point. He was showing me the absurdity of my sentiments. All the same, I still harbored them. I told him as much.

“Look, here’s the thing. What I really feel bad about is that I should be able to spend your money because I’m valuable to you, but I just can’t.”

He paused and nodded. He understood. He said that made him feel good.

“Why?”

“Because I know that you won’t try to jack me and have checks bouncing all over the place.”

I snickered. I hate bank overdrafts.

“Malaka, it’s not like you haven’t taken money from me in the past, when we were dating.”

“But I always paid you back,” I countered.

He said he didn’t remember being repaid. I assured him I did. I’ve never been one of those girls who could take money from her boyfriend because my parents taught us not to be that chick. You never want to be in debt to some guy, especially for something you could afford yourself. I have never been able to abide the idea of a man taking credit for my accomplishments!

By the end of the conversation, Marshall encouraged me to look at the money I was offering as an investment, and not a gift. He said if I REALLY had to, I could look at it as a loan.

“If you really feel like you need to repay a loan to your husband,” he smirked.

“Shut up.”

I thought about it. I could take the money as an investment…but then something occurred to me.

“If it’s an investment, you’ll be looking for a return on that investment, won’t you?” I asked.

“Babe,” he said, cutting me off, “a return on investment doesn’t have to be monetary. My ROI could be you getting more sleep, not having to work more hours, you having a better day, us having better sex (because you’re not so tired), or you just having a smile on your face more often than you do.”

I had one friend tell me that I need to get off my “feminist soap box” and take my husband’s money. I’ve earned every cent in stretch marks and a scarred uterus.

“Calculate the cost of that,” she said.

I hear what everyone is saying. I really do. The world is crooning “You should let me love you/let me be the one to give everything you want and need” – but all I can hear is Kanye hollering “She ain’t nothing but a gold digger/She’s a trifling friend indeed!”

Surely other women struggle with this, right?

Right?? Talk about it here…or tell me I’m mad. ↓

 

Rick “Raping” Ross and his Relationship with Reebok

reebokThere’s a pair of Reebok’s on sale at the shoe store I work at. Garish, in-your-face little things, they are. I typically wouldn’t even look at a shoe like this, but it’s one of the few for sale in my store with a pivot ball on the sole – which, if you do Zumba, you know is really good for dancing. The colors are bright enough to allow me to cra ft an entire 80’s outfit around them, and perhaps spend an afternoon in pretend proficiency in breakdancing, if I ever chose to.

They were too expensive though. I waited for them to go on sale, and last week they finally did. At 30% off, I could easily afford them now…but then I read the news and discovered that I didn’t even WANT them.

It’s been all over the news for the last 2 weeks or more: Rick Ross’ pro-rape lyrics in the song U.O.E.N.O. (which I have no idea what is abbreviated for and have no interest in discovering.) One verse in particular had women’s rights and advocates for rape victims in arms and engaged in battle. In my view, their reaction was apt and warranted.

That nigga sold you that re-rock, you ain’t even know it
I die over these Reeboks, you ain’t even know it
Put Molly all in her champagne, she ain’t even know it
I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain’t even know it
Got a hundred acres I live on, you ain’t even know it
Got a hundred rounds in this AR, you ain’t even know it
Got a bag of bitches I play with, on cloud 9 in my spaceship
Zoned out but he stay fresh from Zone 1 through Zone 6
Bricks all in my blood, birds all in my dreams
Boats all in my yard, lemon pepper my wings
I’m bout to get you f*ck niggas wacked, you ain’t even know it
Your main nigga bout to turn his back, you ain’t even know it

This is my first time actually looking up the lyrics outside of the reference to drugging his date and raping her while unconscious. I’m a bit perturbed by the rest of the content. Like most Top 40 rap today, it’s nothing more than gibberish about flaunting wealth, bagging b*tches and killing other Black guys. You know, just your run of the mill hood jingle. The only thing that distinguishes one rapper from the next is some gimmick he is forced to employ, and so you have L’il Wayne sporting nut hugging leopard print pants (which he has the audacity to sag) and a portly Rick Ross exposing his grotesque belly at every opportunity. The point is, if you’re looking for a song for which to use as a protest against the myriad of ills that plagues American society, this one certainly qualifies.

U.O.E.N.O has now earned the shameful moniker of “Rick Ross’ date rape song”, something I’m sure he never imaged when he penned his “lyrical masterpiece”, and yet there you have it. My problem with the song is not that he wrote it, or even put it to music. It’s that all the adults in the room listened to each syllable and didn’t find anything wrong with it. This is an issue that is playing itself out in music studios all across the nation: there is no sense of accountability. None whatsoever.

In the wake of Steubenville, the rape and impending suicide of Audrie Pott and hundreds of stories of rape that we will never hear about, Rick Ross’ situation becomes particularly poignant. Rick Ross is not a role model for anyone under the age of 40, but he does possess the same privileges and certain the same platform of the cherished title American society has heaped on the gaggle of hapless dimwits we love to idolize.

He is a musician, and music is –and always will be – influential.

I’m guessing the average consumer of Rick Ross’ music is young, male and urban (or wannabe urban). As was exhibited by the case in Steubenville, most of this segment of society doesn’t have the sense of a boiled crab. When you make suggestions of this sort – that you can drug a girl and take her home, and “enjoy that” without her even knowing it – and don’t follow up with the possible consequences of this action, which include arrest and incarceration, well then that makes you dangerous.

As predicted, several members of the hip-hop community like Drake and Tyga came out in defense of Rick Ross, citing freedom of speech and artist oppression. They said activists and righteous groups were grasping at straws, using anything they could to quell the message of hip-hop.

“I mean activists, and all those righteous groups. That’s what they do, they probably don’t even listen to Ross’s music. I know they don’t know who Rocko is,” said Tyga.

No one needs to know who ‘Rocko’ is. I believe celebrities have a right to privacy. He’s an entertainer, and all we need to judge him by is his product – and at the moment, he has produced a song that glories date rape (along with owning a plantation and murdering other Black men. But that’s a discussion for another day.)

Tyga’s utterances are problematic, because they convey and are rife with a pervasive notion of entitlement: That one is entitled to say and do whatever they want for any reason they can conjure – or not conjure. After all, this is America. No one really has to give an account for why they do one thing or another, or so we’re raising this generation and those that follow to believe. Ask Rick Ross why he thought it would be okay to violate a woman in a state of unconsciousness and then write a song about it. Bet you he looks at you with that blank stare my 4 year old gives me, shrugs and goes “I dunno.”

I have discovered that rape is not only about power, but also a false sense of endowment. Men and boys who disseminate and consume poisonous lyrics like these grow up more and more convinced that they have the right to harass, belittle, and rape whomever they wish. I can’t say that they are only to blame. Video whores who have sold out the gender for fleeting fame have contributed to this new idea of capturing the moment on camera and spreading the images around. The only difference is, they get the benefit of being aware and complicit in their actions. The Steubenville victim and Ms. Pott did not.

rrUltimately, I’m glad that Reebok decided to drop Rick Ross from its endorsement deal, but I feel like it was too little too late. Their lack of a swift reaction says to me (and many others) that the corporate brand was waiting to see if this whole “date rape thing” would just blow over. If the company felt strongly about what it is supposed to stand for – the health, fitness and wellbeing of its consumers – they never would have chosen such a slovenly, oily, misogynistic representative in the first place. For Heaven’s sake; Even Nike dropped Tiger Woods from its endorsement deal without prompting, and all 4,853 of his sex-capades where consensual!

I’m not saying Rick Ross can never make another date rape song again if he wants to – I’m just saying we don’t need to reward him and other foolish people like him. He has a right to free speech, and I have a right not to give him or his sponsors a rusty red cent if it’s going to send our society further into the bowels of Hell.

So discuss, discuss! What do you think?

Douche Garden Part Deux

I was in love with a Douche Bag once. I’ve written extensively about him here on MOM over the years. I’ve talked about the numerous times I’ve paid his bills, financed his dry cleaning, brought him food, bore his baby, paid some more bills, and finally ended up in court. HE took ME to court to establish child support and visitation, if you recall. (Keep this is mind. This is key.) Through it all, I’d hoped that he would grow up, get and keep a job, and grow a pair. It never happened.

Last year was a banner year in my tumultuous relationship though. I finally accepted that he wasn’t sh*t and was never going to be sh*t. I stopped blogging about him altogether, in fact. He had really become a non-factor in my life. When you eliminate your expectations of people, there is no way they can disappoint you right? Well…that usually holds true – unless the person for whom you’ve decimated all expectations is a douche bag.

I was still reeling from last night’s ridiculousness when I got a call this morning. The caller ID said it was from Texas. It was Douche Bag calling, allegedly from Afghanistan. It’s now going on 2 years since he took me to court to initiate child support proceedings, and 18 months since I’ve received a payment. He is a few thousand dollars in the hole, and has been driving with a suspended license. None of this should matter – because he is supposed to be working on some covert government assignment in the Middle East that is going to net him a steady paycheck.

It was 9:30 am. What could he possibly want? Nadjah was in school, and I had already made it abundantly clear that he was only to call my phone during the hours she was home. I have nothing to say to him.

“Hello?” I said guardedly.

“Hey…can you talk?”

He sounded like he had been crying. Oh dear GOD. What?!?!

“Yes,” I sighed. “What’s up.”

“I need a huge, HUGE favor.”

“Uh huh. What?”

“I need you to take me off child support.”

“I’m sorry…what?”

He began to sniff pathetically.

“They said they’re going to send me home tomorrow if I don’t get my driver’s license re-instated,” he said woefully. “They talkin’ ‘bout they gonna send me home ‘cause I owe $x,000.”

“Okay…” I said, staring at the phone. “So what does that have to do with me?”

“I need you to take me off child support. I know it’s a big favor to ask, but I promise you I’m gonna send some money your way when I get it. It’s just that I CAN’T lose this job.”

That’s when his sniffles gave way to a floodgate of tears. I was unmoved.

“Douche Bag,” I said pointedly. “Look at how long it TOOK to get child support established, from the day you initiated it to the day we sat in front of a judge. What makes you think that I can get this done in a day?! It’s Friday!”

“I don’t know,” he replied, “but I really need you to figure it out and do something.”

When I balked, he continued.

“Just tell them that you and me worked something out and that I been sending you money on the side. Tell them it just hasn’t been added to the system. I really need you to do this for me.”

I groaned and put my head in my hand. Was I hearing what I thought I was hearing? The utter impudence!

“Look, I can promise you this,” I offered. “I will call on Monday and see what the procedure is, but I can’t make any promises. I don’t know what they are going to say.”

“Okay. Okay,” he said, breathing a sigh of relief. “Please make sure you go down there on Monday.”

“A’ight.”

That should have been the end, but NOOOOO….

“Also, I’m sorry I haven’t been able to call Nadjah lately. It’s just that it’s 6:30 pm here right now, and by the time she gets out of school, it’s like 3:30 am. I can’t really make calls at that hour…”

“Uh huh.”

He was stuttering.

I checked my world map. When she gets out of school it’s actually 11 pm in Afghanistan, and a decent enough hour for a 44 year old man to call his child “half way around the world” (if that’s indeed where he is) to at least say hello and/or goodnight. I didn’t bother to mention that he might try calling her on the weekends, or that she was home all week for spring break. Whatever!

“Alright, Douche Bag. Is that it?”

“Yeah. Just please make sure you go down to the court on Monday, okay?”

“Bye.”

*click*

I was having breakfast with M5X today and told her about the bizarre call. She was overcome by the sheer audacity.

“Why did you even entertain that call!” she exclaimed incredulously.

“Girl…I don’t know.”

“You know what you should do?” she said calculatedly, “you should call Fulton county, just to SEE how long it’s going to take to get this process completed. Why would he think this is something you can do in a day? And furthermore, why would he think that you would even oblige him? It’s not like y’all have a history of working things out and him coming through with ANY sort of payment…in the last 8 years!”

So that’s what I did. I called Fulton County Division of Child Support and asked them what it would take to stop court ordered payments for the Non-Custodial Parent. Do you know what the rep told me?

“Oh! That’s simple enough. All you have to do is send an email through your account on the system telling us you want to close the case, or you can send a notarized letter stating you want to close the case. You can do it in person as well.”

“Well, how long does that take?”

“As soon as we get the request, we can close the case.”

“Uh huh. Thank you…”

I hung up the phone.

Between him and Crispy the Coal Man, this was more douche baggery than I could handle in a 24 hour period. Clearly, he had done his research. Why he didn’t come out and say that this was all took, I can’t say. I DO know that April 15th is tax day, which is probably what is prompting all this sudden urgency. Oh no. Not The Kid. I’m not falling for the banana in the tail pipe.

Sisters. Beautiful, 24-29 year old sisters. Do you see why you need to protect yourselves from liars and douche bags? This could be your life! Move and counter move; a consistent game of tactical insurgency; a lifetime spent uncovering a web of poorly formulated lies and deceptions. Lawd have mercy. And do you know what car Douche Bag was driving when I met him?

A Chevy.

Douche Bags come in all garden varieties, but you can usually point them out if you look close enough. The earlier, the better.

  1. They have nothing to show for themselves or their accomplishments, except for a car.
  2. They compensate for this for fabricating a ton of accomplishments.
  3. They speak with wanton abandon about their virility.
  4. They are rehearsed and repetitive.
  5. They stutter (or take long pauses) when they lie

So what do you think? Should I send the email?

—->Insert unbridled,  deranged, maniacal laughter here <—–

 

 

A Garden of Douche Bags at a Store Near You

Nobody knows what it’s like to work in retail. You think you have an idea, but until you’ve experienced the genuine horrors of working with the public, you really have no idea. Being a retail worker is a multifaceted job. You have be a janitor, cocktail waitress, psychologist and peace advocate while occasionally throwing in some cashiering duties. On the best of days, one can carry out these tedious tasks without incident. On the worst, one might be (sexually) propositioned while on the job.

Last night was one of my worst days.

I work at BS&W (a cute moniker I’ve coined for the shoe store I work at) and generally come in during the night shift. This is when the most dubious characters are out shopping – or stealing. Because they know that they harbor intentions that are not pure, these characters are usually uncommonly sensitive about workers sharing their space in the store. This is why I try to give them as much space as possible…so that they don’t feel like I know they’re about to steal. My company doesn’t like its guests to feel uncomfortable under any circumstances. This is why I smiled at the portly dark-skinned gentleman who walked in close to closing time and moved myself to the next aisle where we could regard each other at a safe distance.

I noted that he did a double-take when he saw me. I did as well. He was a little taller than me (which is not tall at all) and was wearing billowy black pants with pleats, a white button down shirt and a black vest. His attire did not flatter his body, which comprised of three spheres, stacked one on top of the other…like a snow man. Or a “coal man” in this case. Crispy the Coal Man.  He was bald and had a gap in his two front teeth. His skin was dark and smooth, and judging from his dated clothing and manner of walk, I deduced that he was a Johnny Just Come from Nigeria or some other part of West Africa. He motioned for me to come to him. He was a customer. I walked right over.

“Yes, sir?” I asked politely.

“Yes…can you tell me where your sale items are?” he inquired.

I smiled brightly. I was going to give excellent customer service and be back on my way to picking up trash left by patrons who’d previously been in the store.

“Yes. They’re right there behind you in those racks, according to size.”

“I knew that,” he admitted. “I just needed a reason to call you over here to tell you how beautiful you were.”

I snickered, and feigned being taken aback by the “compliment.” I’ve been dealing with this sort of man since I was 13 years old.

“Well thank you, that’s very nice of you to say.”

“So your name is Malaka?” he asked, looking at my name tag.

I nodded in the affirmative.

“It means ‘angel’,” he informed me. “And you are indeed very angelic.”

Oh Gawd, these deft raps.

“You know that’s Arabic, right?” he asked.

“Yes, I do.”

“I speak Arabic,” he said smoothly.

That’s when I laughed.  I informed him that the fact that he knew the meaning of my name in Arabic did not mean he “spoke” Arabic. He then began to mutter a stream of words. I made out “salaam” and “ahum du li l’ahi.”

“That’s a prayer,” I said matter-of-factly.

“Yes…that’s the f’athiha,” he confirmed. He seemed shocked that I would know that. “Are you Muslim?”

“No,” I replied curtly.

I was in no mood to share how I had escaped a childhood of oppressive Islamic rule. I also refrained from pointing out the fact that he had memorized a Koranic verse meant that he “spoke Arabic.” That’s like me repeating “Namaste” and claiming fluent Hindi. Idiot.

He continued to make small talk and compliment my figure until I laughed uproariously and placed my hands on my hips. He immediately took note of my wedding ring, the golden brilliance of which stood out against the dark blue dress I was wearing.

“You’re married?” he asked, alarmed and disappointed.

“Yes, I am.”

“I’m out!”

He spun around and made his way towards the back of the store. I went back to my duties.

It should have of ended there.

10 minutes later he approached me again as he was about to leave the store.

“Well, I didn’t see anything back there that I liked,” he sighed. “You must have sold everything before I came into the store.”

“Yes,” I replied impishly. “I knew you were coming and sold all the size 10 ½  shoes.”

“I don’t wear a 10 ½ .”

We played Guess My Shoe Size a little longer until I gave up.

“The point is, I was making a joke. I sold your shoes.”

His eyes roamed over my body like a cat eyeing a hapless bird in a bath.

“You look like you’re about an 8,” he said, smacking his black lips.

“No. I’m a size 10.”

“Well your boots make your feet look small,” he said in explanation. “And your thighs are large. They make your feet look smaller. You’re very well proportioned.”

Oh ewwwww!

“How many kids do you have?” he asked.

What? Where did that come from? I told him I had four.

“And how old are? Where are you from?”

“I’m 35 and I’m from Ghana.”

“So I look like one of your people, huh?” he cackled.

No, “my people” are much better looking than you, sir.

“Yeah…kind of,” I conceded.

He then informed me that he was 40 years old, and that he had a 5 year old daughter. He unearthed a dated cell phone from his pocket and showed me a picture of his baby. She was beautiful. I told him so.

“She look like me, don’t she?” he laughed wickedly.

“Actually, she does.”

“Her momma can’t stand that.”

Oh here we go. He was one of THOSE guys. It was then that I realized what I disliked about him so much: he was tired and played. Everything about him was played; his raps, his clothes, his phone, his jokes…just played!

His voice had a thin, annoying quality to it. He had begun to drone on about how he was going to take this picture and make a blanket out of it. His baby momma would hate that, he asserted.

“But my girl is gonna get her for me,” he chortled. “Every night, she’s gonna ask her mom for the ‘me and daddy’ blanket. Just watch!”

“Not if her mom folds it up and puts it in the closet,” I countered.

He carried on as if he hadn’t heard me. He commenced to brag about how he was the first one to take his 5 year old to get a mani-pedi and that every time after that, his baby momma would have to remember that HE had done it first. He also took her to the aquarium for her birthday.

“Okay…”I interrupted. “But who was the first person to teach her to read?”

He was stumped.

“Why are you stuttering?” I asked wickedly. Who gives a crap if your child has pink nails? Does she know her numbers, dude??

“Make no mistake,” he said with a huff. “Daddy is VERY involved. I pay that daycare every month. In fact, they be calling me looking for that money.”

This guy is an idiot and thinks I am too. He just told me that she graduated Pre-K. Georgia Pre-K is free…

“Uh huh.”

It was at this point that he informed me that he would like to have more children, and soon.

“As you can see, me and God have some good product.”

I smiled conciliatorily.

“I’m looking for a good, fertile woman. You know, with a good milking station and other apparatus I can work with…much like yourself.”

He made gestures with his hands.

“Huh?”

“You know…Double D’s.”

Actually, I wear a G cup, you nit wit.  

I laughed out loud, letting my voice carry over the entire store.  That’s when he told me about the type of woman he was looking to ‘trap’ and ‘breed’ with.

“You know, my baby momma only had a 3% chance of getting pregnant,” he said with bravado. “That means my stuff is potent.”

“I would think that the success of that pregnancy had more to do with her body than yours,” I countered.

He ignored me.

“Yeah…well, when I have this next baby, it’s gonna be even more chocolate. Although her mom might be white, but it won’t be light skinned. I want chocolate babies.”

Now he was just rambling. I had begun to sweat because I was thinking about my dinner. He mistook this for something else.

“Are you getting hot? I have that affect, you know.”

“Yes. Your enigmatic essence is overwhelming me.”

“I know.”

He was being laughed at and didn’t even have the intelligence to realize it.

“Anyway,” he continued, “I’m looking for a nice 24 – 27 year old woman. You can take a woman like that and blow her mind.”

“How do you mean?”

That’s when he stopped talking to me and lost himself in a monolog, recited in the third person:

So what did you do with your boyfriend this weekend?

‘Oh, we went to a Chinese restaurant and then a movie.’

Oh really baby? Why don’t I take you to Chops, and then we can go check out Alvin Ailey…expand your ho-rizons.

(Yes, he actually said HO-rizons.)

“Alvin Ailey?” I asked incredulously.

He looked at me strangely.

“Yeah, the dance company.”

I know Alvin Ailey. Our Girl Scout troop goes to see the show every year. How was this supposed to impress a grown woman? He continued with his tale of proposed seduction.

“You take a 20 something who’s used to hanging out at the Underground and say to her, ‘Hey baby, why don’t you get yourself a passport? Let me take you on a cruise?’”

“Are you serious?” I interrupted.

He clapped his hands like it was a sure banker.

“Are you telling me that’s not going to blow her mind?”

“I guess it would – if she’s never left SWATs…”

“And then when she gets pregnant, and asks you what she’s supposed to do, I just look at her and say ‘Hey baby…I got this big ol’ house. I got a fridge with plenty of food; and I got this 60 inch in the corner. It got cable too. I can even get someone in here to help you clean up…or show you how to clean if you don’t know how to!’”

Really niggro? You’re 40! You’re SUPPOSED to have a house with some cable in it!

At that moment I felt the spirit of my saintly, chain smoking grandmother descend from the heavens and hover above us. She had a Virginia Slims dangling from her rouged lips.

“Malaka,” she whispered, “this nigga ain’t shiieet.”

I ignored her and spoke to my tormentor. He was dangling his car key in his hand to simulate how he’d welcome this phantom lady into his imagined grandiose mansion. He drove a Chevy. A CHEVY.

“You know, you have just confirmed my assertion that 40+ year old men are looking for 20-something  year old girls because they are easily manipulated and impressed,” I mused aloud. “But you need to find the right one. My dad was a pilot. I’ve been all over the world and I’ve been flying since I was on breast milk.”

This seemed to perplex him. Still, he had to soldier on and prove that the paltry trinkets that he was offering were indeed valuable. I confirmed that they would be much appreciated – to someone who’s never seen or had much. In conclusion, he said this:

“My first task is to make sure she’s the right stock,” he said slyly. “I went to Georgia Tech. When I’ve had her over enough times, I’ll get a DNA sample from her. I know how to do that.”

“I think it’s time for you to go,” I said with a chuckle. But oh, was I serious.

“Nice talking to you, Malaka,” he said, extending his hand for a shake. “My name is Isreal, by the way.”

“Pleasure to meet you too, Israel.”

Good Lord, I lie as easily as I breathe.

 

The point of this whole tale? If you are – or know someone  who is – a woman between the ages of 24 and 29, watch out for men like this. They are COMING for you. Travel. Expand your own horizons. Read books. Don’t let some douche bag with the promise of cable TV and an old Chevy ruin your life!

But it doesn’t end there, believe it or not. Part deux coming up….