RompHims Are the Next Logical Step in Men’s Fashion

Let us be honest with one another: Where men’s fashion is concerned, it’s been a race to (and in many cases, from) the crotch for a very long time. I don’t generally keep a keen eye out for male fashion – primarily because it’s so repetitive and boring – but I did note when hemlines on men’s trousers began to shrink and raise about 3-4 years ago. The look raised many eyebrows, but seemed fairly innocuous.

It’s not as though we expected the look to go from the runway to the mainstream, right? So few of these trends actually make it from the glitz of Fashion Week to the racks of Old Navy.

And yet…this one DID.

Your younger brother’s trousers are now considered “formal” wear.

Nevertheless, we ignored what was up until 2014 considered a faux pas in men’s fashion. The hem of a man’s trousers ought to fall on the bridge of his shoe and that was the end of the discussion! If a few men wanted to disgrace themselves by tossing out this hallowed rule of professional presentation, we’d let them. They were probably slackers who didn’t deserve society’s concern anyway. Now, look! They’ve upped the ante and made as an addendum a close cut to these suit pants. They are called “skinny suits”.

It went mainstream, y’all!

This look was crossing the line of what is acceptable presentation of the male body in public, but we have endured the presence and penetration of the saggy jean for a quarter of a century or better, so perhaps we could make an allowance for this overcorrection in terms of fit.

And then – while we eschewed diligence – along came men’s jeggings…commonly referred to as “meggings”. I have nothing intelligent to add to this point of discussion. Does “GAH?!?!?!” count as an intelligible remark? The picture speaks for itself.

I mean. Really. This is just BEYOND.

Still, the denizens of fashion were not through with us yet. The spring/summer season of 2016 was dominated by the chino: those crotch-hugging trousers with elastic in the ankles. Not to be confused with the utility of a sweat pant which can also feature elastic at the ankles, the chino affords the wearer the respectability of a coffee filter sales man, coupled with the carefree whimsy of a professional skateboarder. When my son’s luggage was lost in transit last year, we were obliged to purchase this item of clothing in several colors including khaki, camo and grey. These were the only cut of trouser available for boys his age, the only other alternative being school uniform pants. However as a boy of stocky build, these booty-hugging trousers made him look more like a frustrated Musketeer than a happy-go-lucky ramp rider.

These “baggy” chinos only work of you have no butt.

And that brings us to the RompHim: rompers for men. People are conflicted about how to take this new sensation, primarily because unless you’re a rock star named Prince, or a tiny English prince, or a dude named Mr. Brown, there’s really no protocol for grown men in rompers.

On one hand, a group of people wholeheartedly reject the idea of RompHims (or BropHims, coming in LV and Gucci print in a ‘hood near you) because it represents the next wave in the deterioration of what many consider definitions of masculinity. On the other, there are many who are excited about all the thigh meat and man bubble that will be on full display as the weather warms up. While we may not be able to agree on whether or not this trend is to be embraced, I think we can all agree that we are all intrigued. And by intrigued, I mean utterly mesmerized. Have you been able to stop thinking about BropHims since you first heard about them? No. Me neither!

So yes, given what has been happening in men’s fashion under our very noses for the past few years, it makes perfect sense that your uncle and/or prospect boo would aspire to show up at the family reunion or graduation in a onesie. This is metrosexuality run amuck. Gone awry. It’s gobbling sixteen different types of steroids. And I am here for it.

Next time we convene, we will discuss what’s new in men’s grooming. In anticipation of that conversation, check out this video of a brother sealing the cuticles of his beard hairs with a flat iron.

I know you *think* you’re ready but you’re not. None of us is.

 

So! What colors will you be wearing your RompHim in this year? I hear there are already ankara prints available. You know Nigerians will never carry last…

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Even God and Your Daddy Know #MenAreTrash

Beloveds: I won’t be keeping you long this morning. I just stopped by to share a word that God confirmed in my spirit late in the midnight hour.

Yesterday was Mother’s Day, and the occasion was nearly overshadowed by the kvetching of a certain group of people who have taken great offense with a hash tag that has been trending on Twitter for several days. That hash tag is #MenAreTrash. The source of their consternation (‘they’ in this instance being emotional men and the patriarchal princesses who enable their melodramatic tendencies) is that the proclamation that men are trash sweeps all men with a broad stroke.

“Is your daddy trash?” they ask rhetorically.

“My boyfriend certainly isn’t trash!” another exclaims indignantly.

Soon to follow, as always, is an attack on feminism. “You feminists say you want to be equal to men. And yet here you are today saying men are trash!” The idea behind this pseudo Socratic line of thinking is that feminists – and all women by extension – are ultimately trash because they want to be equal to men.

Please.

No one is interested in “equality with” men. What all people of good sense want is equal access to the privileges, resources and rewards that men routinely enjoy simply for the sake of their gender. No feminists that I have encountered has the slightest interest in partaking of the behaviors that led to the genesis of this hash tag in particular: that behavior being the routine and accepted violence against women, the economically disenfranchised and other marginalized groups. If you are unfamiliar with the birth of the hash tag, it gained groundswell after the discovery of Karabo Mokoena’s body in a veld. She was beaten to death, her corpse singed with acid and finally ‘necklaced’…the process of putting a car tire around a human body and lighting it aflame. It leaves the flesh nearly unrecognizable. Women all over the world have been sharing horrific stories about the physical, sexual and emotional violence that they have faced at the hands of men with whom they share close proximity, and the almost dismissive attitude from members of the communities in which the attacks have taken place.

I will agree with those who quake with fury that #MenAreTrash paints all men with the same brush. It does…because men (and many women) have facilitated as system in which men are rewarded – and even expected – to behave with trashy tendencies. The hash tag is broad sweeping because the problem is systematic. Therefore your loving uncle and doting father are outliers and do not operate within the expectations of typical male behavior. Men are unpredictable, and women have been socialized to police ourselves based on that capricious nature. A user online explained it in a way that should be simple enough to grasp with this illustration using snakes.

Yes, yes. I know! Not ALL men. But when an issue becomes systematic and has a high(er) likelihood of occurring, anthropologically we speak in broad terms. Like:

  • People sweat when it’s hot, or
  • White women don’t age well, or
  • Africans love rice

There are always exceptions, however these events is what history and experience have taught us to expect. Even the Bible shows us this is the case.

 Boaz and Ruth

Ruth 2:5-8

Then Boaz asked his foreman, “Who is that young woman over there? Who does she belong to?”

And the foreman replied, “She is the young woman from Moab who came back with Naomi. She asked me this morning if she could gather grain behind the harvesters. She has been hard at work ever since, except for a few minutes’ rest in the shelter.”

Boaz went over and said to Ruth, “Listen, my daughter. Stay right here with us when you gather grain; don’t go to any other fields. Stay right behind the young women working in my field. See which part of the field they are harvesting, and then follow them. I have warned the young men not to treat you roughly. And when you are thirsty, help yourself to the water they have drawn from the well.”

As we see, Boaz had to command the young men not to harass Ruth. In other versions, Boaz says, “have I not charged the young men that they shall not touch thee?” We can see that as a matter of routine, men in that district made life difficult for women either by verbally debasing them, touching them without consent or both. Boaz had to give than command because he knew men were trash.

Jesus and the adulterous woman

John 8:3-9

And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,

They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.

Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?

This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.

So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.

And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

The woman was brought for condemnation before Christ specifically for the act of sex outside of her marriage. Not for stealing. Not for blasphemy…for having an adulterous affair. That Jesus would then refuse to look her accusers in the eye as they challenged his authority meant that he was already confident in his knowledge about the types of lives that these men led. Why did they not also drag the man with whom this woman was having an affair with before the Christ? Because doing so would incriminate them as well, possibly setting a precedence for being drug into square when they might find themselves in the throes of adultery. Not a single accuser stayed to throw a stone, because they inwardly knew that they were trash. The difference is, that had the consciousness of mind and integrity to admit that.

You and your own father

“Akos! Make sure you are in this house by 6pm.”

“But, Daddy! Why? You never tell Kofi to come back in at any specific time.”

“Herh! Don’t argue with me. Insolent girl! In fact, you can’t leave the house at all. Go and sweep the hall.”

Your father wants you back in the house by 6pm, before the sun goes down, because even he fears what men lurking in the dark could potentially do to his daughter. He’s a man, and he knows men are trash.

Not convinced? Then ask yourself why you would never take your young daughter into the men’s bathroom, but have full confidence that your young son is safe in a public toilet full of women. Why do we expend so much energy on telling girls how to dress to avoid rape, rather than driving home the message in men that they have no right to access to anyone’s body…not even in marriage? So many factors contribute to the base (or trash) instincts that men harbor and exhibit. The entitlement that men feel is a direct result of global society’s refusal to demand responsibility from men.

Boys will be boys.

That’s just how men are.

Because, biology.

If more men were really honest, they would admit that they are equally afraid of their fellow men. Rather than admit this, they permit sexist behavior to continue and endorse misogyny with their silence. I’ve had a man admit to me that he was in a room when a girl was being raped and did nothing because the other men around him threatened to beat him up if he intervened. She was sexually assaulted and he got to live with the guilt of being a coward, but lives unscathed nevertheless.

I’ve had a man admit that he sat silently while his homeboys plotted on how to ruin a woman’s reputation because she did not acquiesce to his unwanted advances. They would proclaim her to be a slut and that would be the end of it. Rather than risk the ire of his friends and look like “punk”, this guy sat by and let the scheme unfold.

I’ve had a man confess to me that he was at his friend’s house as he was punching his wife and did not intervene beyond a “Come on, man. She said she was sorry!”

This is all trash. And while you as a man may not be guilty of exhibiting trash behavior personally, you are not innocent if you do not call out trash when you see it. Now the challenge becomes not only to unlearn this thinking and abolish this fear of challenging the status quo, but also to raise a generation of men who will not find themselves victims of trash influences and eventually become trash themselves.

If you’re sitting there condemning #MenAreTrash because it offends your sensibilities, build a bridge and get over it. This is not the time for respectability. Not when women/girls are being burned with acid for refusing marriage proposals, or shot in the face because they want to get an education. Not when presidential candidates can grab women by the pussy and become leaders of the free world. You like hash tags like #MasculinitySoFragile because of its vagueness and because it provides no immediate provocation to inspect an issue or force introspection. But you do recognize that at the end of that conversation on fragile masculinity is the conclusion that men are trash. The former ruffles your feathers on the onset, and that’s what has you unsettled. That, and not the fact that 70 year old women in India now have to learn how to use swords and staffs to defend themselves from marauding young men in their communities.

And you patriarchal princesses: For you to sit there and demand a “better hash tag” because you’re thinking of the one guy who gives you orgasms or the other that sent you a couple of dollars to get you onto a flight is insane, frankly. It beggars belief. You are as asinine as the folk who demand peaceful (read: quiet and convenient) protests in response to police brutality and other forms of systematic oppression. All you are doing is enabling the perpetrator at the expense of the victim for the sake of nicety and for the benefits of patriarchy.

Girl, you trash too.

 

James Comey Discovers White People Behavior Can Have Black People Consequences.

Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey this week. What is unclear is if Comey’s firing came on the heels of a recommendation from the Deputy Attorney General or – if as Trump announced on Lester Holt’s interview on Thursday – he had made the decision to fire Comey regardless of any recommendation. Prior to this on Tuesday, Kellyann Con-all-the-way went on Anderson Cooper’s show where she spun her lips into a lie that would have us believe that Trump’s decision to fire Comey had nothing to do with Russia.

We all know that the FBI Director’s termination had everything to with Russia. Who asks for extra resources to do an investigation into Trump’s links with Russia and then loses their job a day later? What’s worse, who loses their job and finds out not from their employer, but from some third party…like TV? This is not treatment that powerful white men – particularly not men in high profile positions such as director of the freaking Federal Bureau of Investigation! – are accustomed to. I tell you who is accustomed to this maltreatment, however: The rest of us.

How many of us know a co-worker (or have been that co-worker) who lost their job for asking too many questions? Surely you’ve worked shoulder to shoulder with that woke brother that caused way too many waves by challenging the status quo at the office? How long has that employee lasted in the corporate world? Not longer than the affable, porn watching, coke-snorting sales executive in the corner office, I assure you. Tristan O’Brien the exec is going to last a heck of a lot longer than Tyrell Brown in customer care. I’ve chanced on the backroom meetings where Tyrell’s firing was being discussed.

“Tyrell just doesn’t seem to fit in with the corporate culture here,” says a team lead.

“Yeah…he really struggles to understand basic concepts like why we don’t pay for sick leave or why we reuse the coffee filters in the office,” adds another.

Nodding his head in agreement, the department head confirms that Tyrell and his incessant questioning are bad for employee moral. It is decided that Tyrell is to be terminated on Monday morning.

“Why ruin the weekend?”

The room agrees. Everyone skips off for margaritas after work, Tyrell included. He doesn’t know it, but this Friday happy hour is actually his going away party, sans cake and kudos or nary a word from his co-workers. It is only on Monday morning when his futile attempts at swiping his badge to gain access to the building that he discovers the awful truth: He no longer has employment with CareerMaster.com.

Frantic and confused, Tyrell calls his team lead to find out what happened.

A voice on the other end of the phone says calmly, “You were let go today. Didn’t you get the email? It was sent out on Friday after work. Don’t worry… your personal affects will be mailed to you, along with your severance check. Ah…Ah! Tyrell! There’s not need for that sort of language!”

The rest of the office surreptitiously listens in on the call that the team lead “happened” to be taking on speaker. I hear one of the new hires say not quietly enough, “Gosh…I hope Tyrell doesn’t come in here and shoot up the place!”

“I know. He was SO militant. He always made me a little uncomfortable.”

“He was nothing like you, Malaka!”

“Yeah! You’re so easy to get along with! And you know how to say ‘ask’. It always grated on my nerves when Tyrell said ‘ax’ when he wanted to ask a question.”

“Three cheers for our magical African Negro!”

Naturally, I was disgusted by this display of liberal white benevolence for my benefit, but Tyrell, and all Tyrell’s like him everywhere, also happened to harbor deeply sexist beliefs. And while I was sad that the brother lost his job, I was not sad to see him go.

What makes James Comey’s ouster so stunning is that white men aren’t typically punished for asking questions. Asking questions shouldn’t get an FBI director promoted to private citizen. The effort ought to catapult you to minor deity status. It’s a trait that is encouraged in that particular demographic. Pop culture bears this out. Who is the last person often standing in a horror flick? A white male. (Get Out being the most noted exception that comes to mind.) Who’s always the first to die? The Black guy…and he ain’t even want to know what that strange rustling in the bush was in the first place.

Questions guide white male existence. Questions like:

  • “What’s that noise?”
  • “How many guns would it take to colonize an entire continent?”
  • “If I poke this lion in the nose, will it really try to bite me?”

So when a powerful white man like James Comey asks questions like, “What are the Trump’s family links to Russia and what – if any – involvement did Russia have in this election”, I’m sure Comey did not see his sacking coming. In fact, he probably expected Fuhrer Trump to commend him for his queries. After all, it was only a few months ago that the Orange Fuhrer praised Comey for the “guts” it took to investigate Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Questions are not supposed to lead to a public humiliation for white men. Seeking truth and accountability is a noble calling – one that minorities are frequently punished and reviled for. Who can forget how we were all disparaged for calling for investigations into the mysterious and unexplained deaths of Sandra Bland, Edward Crawford and Sheila Abdus-Salaam? When Black people ask questions, we are being difficult. When White people ask questions, it’s an admirable effort. I imagine it must have come as a shock to Comey and his team when he received this untoward treatment that is generally set aside for the lower castes of American society.

Welcome to the other side of the tracks, James! Now that you’re down here with the rest of us, let me tell you where you went wrong: You were too visible. You were too flashy. You were literally the Flo Rida of FBI directors: all over everybody’s’ tracks. Every time there was a television broadcast, your name and face where on it. Every time there was a discussion about the election and the influences, your name popped up. Real Gs move in silence…like gnomes. Consider your predecessor, J. Edgar Hoover. The man shaped much of American history, and we’re still discovering all the nefarious deeds that are attributed to his decisions. But you? You left yourself too open. You were too exposed. You were too often caught in the crosshairs of a camera! That has consequences, bruh; People of color consequences.

The wages of working on Donald Trump’s behalf to influence an election is an Apprentice style firing. That ho ain’t loyal, James! I bet you never, ever thought…. But you gone learn tuhday! *cackle!!*

I Was Asked To Make A ‘Grown African Woman’ Decision Today…

Part of living in virtually any part of Africa is the expectation that you will employ house help to aid in the running of your home. No matter your socio-economic circumstances or class, the chances that there will be someone less fortunate than you are always extremely high. In the absence of a formal employer-employee arrangement (such as the one I am involved in now), many African families will barter shelter, school fees or a chance to get out of the village by “hiring” out children to more fortunate family members in metropolitan areas. It’s a sort of foster care arrangement and gives the child an opportunity to work, get an education or see life outside of the village.

It sounds idyllic, but these arrangements can frequently go badly for the child or young person involved. Benefactors emotionally and physically abuse their needy wards with more frequency than we on the continent care to admit. Hunger, name-calling and physical violence are all methods used to control and incite submission in the recipient of the arranged benevolence. It breeds mistrust and creates negative attitudes around the employer-employee relationship, often resulting in a master-subject paradigm instead. What often happens is that once the former subject grows or is promoted out of that station and now has the opportunity to lord over someone else less fortunate than them, the cycle of work and relational abuse continues. This happens in homes, offices and commercial spaces all over Africa. Ask yourself why the security guard at your local bank has the confidence (and gall) to shout at you as you park your car. It’s because he has been given a little bit of authority and because he was never given respect in his formative years now feels it imperative to demand it. Now a man, it’s his way of retaliating against oppressive authority figure(s) that he was not equipped or permitted to in his youth. This is why the bible tells us not to promote our children to wrath: they grow up to become unreasonable watchmen and bank tellers.

I digress.

I may have mentioned some time ago why one of the reasons I’m thrilled to be back on the Continent is for the simple reason that I have so much help around the house. I believe every woman should have a wife, and if she cannot get a wife then she must have a housekeeper. I LOVE my housekeeper. She keeps our house spotless and she always comes ready to retell the craziest stories about life in the Crags, the themes of which generally center on death, destruction and witchcraft. She looked after us during our 3-month visit to SA in 2011 so it was a no-brainer that she would do the same once we moved here in 2016 if her schedule permitted. She’s still as efficient as ever, but has slowed down considerably –as she put it – over the past five years. We asked if she needed help with the work, but she declined; I suppose out of fear that another (younger) woman would eventually take her job from her altogether. However, the house we’re renting is fairly large and a LOT for one person alone to look after. How could she keep her job (which was never in jeopardy) AND stave any competition? Enter: her destitute niece from Oudtshoorn. This was someone our housekeeper could control and boss about in that typical African auntie fashion.

Woohoo! I’m a feminist in the big city!

Oudtshoorn is in the Karoo, which is an aberration of a Khoi word meaning ‘desert’. There’s nothing in Oudtshoorn but some heat, some rocks, some ostriches, racism, unemployment and liquor. Lots and lots of liquor. It is from this backdrop that this niece (let’s call her Shelby) arrived. She is a coloured girl of 23 who lived on a farm with her next-door neighbor because her mother has been a drunk for the majority of her life. For her, coming to Plett had the same effect as Mary Tyler More arriving in New York. The world was big, bright, fast moving and exciting. Unfortunately, unlike MTM, Shelby did not immerse herself in work or hatch schemes that would eventually make her a woman of the world. She has made a series of poor decisions that have landed her in a pretty bad situation with dire consequences, one of which is the eviction from her aunt’s house, and consequently the loss of her employment at our house.

Four months passed without Shelby working alongside her aunt, and it was clearly very hard for her. Our housekeeper recruited a cousin to come and work with her, but the woman only lasted a week. When it became obvious that our housekeeper couldn’t handle the workload, she coaxed Shelby back, saying that I had requested her return. (A lie.) En route to our home last week, she then told my husband that I requested him to pick up Shelby because I wanted her to return to work. (Another lie. I said we’d discuss it; nothing was final.) It was against these untruths that Shelby returned to our employment: under the assumption that I desperately wanted her back in my home, when in reality it was her aunt who could not get on without her and was too proud to admit it.

I let it all slide, and that was my mistake…one that could have been potentially lethal. Fortunately, I have a bit more sense than what my face lets on.

In addition to getting Shelby her job back, our housekeeper wanted me to take on the role of counselor. She wanted me to talk to the girl about her life choices, her responsibility to her children, her colon health… Ugh! This was all too much! But this is the rent one has to pay when you have help in the house in Africa. Their problems become YOUR problems, whether you want it or not. So I did as I was requested and had a big girl talk with Shelby with the aid of some friends who spoke Afrikaans. The poor girl was reduced to a watery heap by the time we were done. The singular question: “Are the lifestyle choices you are making now helping you to become the woman you told us you want to be?” seemed to be enough to set her mind right. She has thrown herself into her work in the days since that chat on Friday.

I thought all was said and done until our housekeeper pulled me aside and began whispering to me this morning. It seems I had left something undone.

“Nehna*, you promised me last week you would shake Shelby, and you didn’t do it!”

I was utterly confused. “What? What are you talking about.”

“I ASKED you to search her and you said you would. The talk was fine, but you must also search her Nehna.”

I was about to object, but she cut me off.

“No. Please! You must do it for me! You must search her so that she feels afraid. You MUST shake her!”

I sighed and said I would. I am always doing things for my housekeeper out of obligation. But this didn’t sit well with me at all. This wasn’t a cake for her grandchild or a ride to Pick n’ Pay. What she was requesting was a violation of this young woman’s privacy based on a suspicion that I didn’t harbor in the first place.

If you are confused about my ambivalence, allow me to explain. What she wanted me to do was pat this girl down, feel through her clothing and rummage through her handbag if she had brought one. I was to do the same to her, so that it wouldn’t look like she was being singled out. Her rationale?

“I see the way she looks at the things you have brought for the kids from America. All these nice panties and clothes. I think maybe she’s going to steal them, because she has this boyfriend and she wants to look nice for him. Always she’s watching these things, and that’s why I can’t leave her to clean alone in the house. You MUST shake her, Nehna!”

Holy Christmas. Sweet Father! This was just ridiculous. After I thought about it, I was certainly not going to pat another grown woman down for any reason, most certainly not over some used tween draws. If my housekeeper wanted her niece searched, then she was going to have to do the deed herself. I was not her errand girl for this one. I had another plan instead. And at 4pm, when my housekeeper whispered that it was time for me to pull them both aside and execute my search, I informed her that she was not going to like what I did next.

A worried look clouded her face. “Hai, Nehna! You cannot ask me to pull down my pants and remove all my clothes!”

“Hei,” I grunted. “You asked me to do this thing. You can’t now tell me how you want it done. Even if I ask you to remove your underwear, bend over and cough, you must do it!” I demonstrated all of the movements for emphasis.

She laughed nervously.

Got her!

We went to my crafting room – as my housekeeper had suggested – and I turned to face the two women.

Feigning confusion, my housekeeper asked, “Oi! Shelby…what does this lady want? I wonder if everything is okay?”

Shelby shot me a worried glance.

“Everything is fine,” I assured her. “Have you decided you want to come back here to work? Do you want to keep this job?”

She nodded that she had. I smiled at her.

“Good! Then in that case, I wanted to give you something.” I produced a new packet of ladies underwear from Woolworths wrapped in a gift bag. “I picked this up for you today. I also made these for you.”

I pointed to a pair of earrings made from shweshwe that I’d sewn and assembled after my conversation with my housekeeper.

“You can have one – or both. It’s up to you. It’s just something to say welcome back, and to tell you I trust you. If there’s anything in this house that you want – or need – in this house, don’t just take it. Ask me, and if I can get or give it to you, I will. ”

Shelby’s face broke out in the biggest grin I’ve seen from the girl in the 6 months I’ve known her. She thanked me and picked up the pink earrings. Then she thought better of her choice and took the two.

Good girl.

My housekeeper began applauding, admonishing her niece to take note of how good of a woman I was.

“You see the sort of woman she is, Shelby? You see?”

I waved the compliment away and told Shelby to have a good night. She made her way toward the gate with her aunt at her back. I stopped her. She had a smile plastered on her face.

“Oh, Nehna! I love the way you did that! If not for God’s wisdom, you wouldn’t have done that!”

“Listen to me,” I seethed, cutting her off. “If you don’t trust her…if YOU suspect her of being a thief…then you can’t bring her here any more.”

“I just see the way that she looks at the things…”

“I get that. But you can’t ask me to search people that you have brought to this house because you suspect them of being a thief. If you want to search your niece, you will have to do it yourself from now on.”

She bristled. “Ok…But can we go in the room and close the door while we talk?”

I shook my head no. “Nah. We gon’ talk right here out in the open. I’m serious. If you don’t trust her, then she can’t come work here. You understand?”

“I will watch her,” she said, nodding her head.

I hated it. I hated that whole event. I know several women in Ghana specifically who would have relished the chance to force that girl to undress herself and dump out the contents of her bag in hopes of finding evidence of theft. Finding none, they would still boast to their equally privileged friends about how they “shook” the maid.

It’s good. It’s good! These young girls from the village, you can’t trust any of them. They come to the city and their eyes become wide…

What I hated even more than all of this was how my housekeeper, whom I have trusted and have much affection for, would use me as a pawn to carry out a deed with the aim of denigrating her niece because she was too cowardly to do the act – or just talk to the girl – herself. That made me feel sullied. My sister, Ngosa put it best.

Alas, this is what it means to be a ‘big woman’ in Africa: to be cruel, unreasonable and unrepentant about it. I am not naïve. I know that giving Shelby new panties and custom earrings won’t necessarily prevent her from stealing from us if she wanted to. Kindness if often rewarded with treachery. But feeling her up or shouting curses at her is no guarantee as a guard against theft either. All I know is, offering kindness allows me to sleep much better at night, and I will choose kindness wherever possible.

 

Are you still here? Great! Talk to me about your experience with Big Women/Men either as someone under their authority or as one yourself. How do you relate to people who are in less fortunate circumstances? Do you browbeat or kill ’em with kindness?

*Nehna is the pet name my housekeeper assigned me in 2011.

What Playing Monopoly With My Children Taught Me About My Own Mother

In late January we moved the TV from the game room upstairs to the bottom floor in order to accommodate guests who would be occupying the suite where we once gathered as a family. When I say “we”, I really mean “they”: my children. The soft glow emitting from the television has long been a comforting presence in my children’s life. Unlike their mother, television doesn’t tell them that they’re talking too loudly or ask them if they heard what it was saying. Television makes no demands of their time and talent (like taking out the trash or picking up their toys), and yet they have always been willing to devote more and more time and energy to it. I am not ashamed to admit that there was a brief stretch in time when PBS and later, Cartoon Network, babysat my four spirited kids. It is what it is. But something happened when the set got moved to a different location in the house – a crossing of some wires, perhaps – and then one day, without warning, DSTV floated out of our lives like Mary Poppins drifting slowly, steadily and permanently away by the power of her magical umbrella.

(Speaking of umbrellas, have you read my hilarious book ‘Madness & Tea’? If not, you should.)

Looking for ways to find this book? Click ME! I know the way!

Now that cable is no longer a fixture in our lives, we are forced to interact with one another. We are compelled to find different ways to entertain ourselves. My husband has indicated no inclination that he’s willing to sort out the problem (probably motivated by the R500 we’re saving a month) and so it’s often left to me to contend with the oft-repeated phrase, “I’m booooorrrred!!!!” from little lips and doleful eyes. I kid you not it’s in those moments I’d rather be convalescing, post brain surgery.

We’ve just come off of a long holiday weekend in celebration of Worker’s Day. In those five days, the kids discovered an unpacked box of board games in the garage. They asked if they could bring them into the house.

“Why not?” I replied, watching them scurry off with two playmates in tow. A smile played about my lips. It was almost like watching my own childhood unfold in front me all over again. Ahhh, those simpler days when kids were kids, rather than programmed consumers of lurid pop culture and whatever it is that supposed to pass as food these days. Soon they re-emerged from the garage, arms laden with games we’d either purchased or inherited a decade or more prior.

“Yoh! Many of these games are brand new,” exclaimed a boy named Jordi, one of the kids’ generally more enthusiastic friends.

“That’s because we rarely get a chance to play board games,” I explained. Which was not entirely true, but I saw no reason to explain my aversion to interacting with my children on that level to t a 14 year old.

“Can you teach us to play, Auntie Malaka? I’ve forgotten the rules.”

I smiled benevolently at the six sweet faces staring expectantly at mine.

“Of course I can,” I trilled.

As the kids unpacked the brand new board and accessories, it suddenly dawned on me that I had forgotten the rules to Monopoly as well. The last I played the game was in 1997 during a church retreat. A crazed girl named Cecily was such a ferocious shark at the game that it put me off Monopoly completely. I swore I would never play it again. Shuddering as I recalled the memory of that particular spring afternoon, I shook off the vestiges of that vow and read the rules aloud for the edification of all.

As the two oldest kids distributed $1500 in Monopoly money to each of the players, a more pleasant memory took the place of my earlier negative reaction. My mother had taught my siblings and I how to play Monopoly when we were all still relatively young. The sight of green, yellow and white ‘dollar’ bills brought to mind the sound the sound of my mother’s soothing voice encouraging us each to buy property. (My mother’s voice was always very soothing whenever she was talking about the acquisition of property and money. Alternatively, it took on a more shrill quality whenever there was waste or loss.) The little deeds printed on cardstock brought back flashes of exited laugher elicited from my siblings and I felt whenever we announced that a player had to pay us rent for landing on our property. I imaged that my children and I would share similar moments as we settled down to play this game that required shrewdness and savvy.

Yes, dear reader, you may begin smirking now.

“I want to be the dog!”

“No. EYE want to be the dog!”

“Okay. Fine. Fine! You be the dog then. I’ll just be the horse. …Who took the horse?”

“Ugh!”

“Wait. Why am I in jail? How do I get out of jail?”

“No fair. I don’t want to pay her rent!”

“Oh my GOD! You have to move six spaces! 5 plus 1 is SIX!”

“Stop rolling the dice onto the floor!”

“But I don’t have any more 50s. I can’t pay the taxes. If I give the bank this 500 bill, I won’t have any more money! (You’ll get change back…) Really? Yay!!! I get $450!”

20 minutes. That’s how long I lasted. 20 minutes! It was in those moments and those following that I discovered something about my mother: In this regard, she is a much better woman than I.

My mother played many rounds of Monopoly with us, some bouts stretching for hours. Monopoly is the never-ending story. The only way a game of Monopoly ends is when one or more players eventually goes bankrupt, all the players eventually lose interest, or that ONE player brings the game to a jarring end by bursting into tears. I left the game by handing my second born all my cash and deeds, and as I should have anticipated, the game ended a 15 minutes after I bowed out when my youngest burst into tears.

To quote Donald Trump, it was a disaster.

It takes a peculiar sort of parent to guide her children through the crucible that is this Parker Brothers creation. Monopoly requires the player to develop a ruthlessness bordering on sadism. These are not traits that we look to instill in children, and yet my mother patiently and methodically made sure that we understood and enjoyed playing this game. And for that, I thank her. Without saying it, it was her way of informing us that this capitalist world we inhabit is a cruel, unjust place. There are always going to be people who try to screw you at every turn. Some of those people may be your family. Be unswindleable. Stay ready!

Had I been a better student, I would have had the stamina to train my own kids in the dark arts of Monopoly. But I am weak and I fear I have been defeated by those first 20 minutes. When I am braver and ready to strip them of their childlike innocence, we shall revisit the endeavor.

I tip my top hat to you, mother.

 

 

Have you cried during a game of Monopoly? It’s okay to admit it if you have. Go ahead…admit it in the comments below. We won’t judge you. Okay, we WILL, but it won’t be  too harshly.

Thanks, Thinx! Now We Can All Finally Have That “Happy Period” Male Advertisers Are Forever Going On About.

Have you ever been watching a sci-fi series or flick and thought to yourself, “Man, it would be great if we had a tablet that held all of my books and personal information?” And then poof! 15 year later, Apple comes out with an iPad and a portion of your geek dreams come to pass? Or how about this one: What would it be like to ride on a hover board like Marty McFly in Back to the Future? We didn’t have to wait a century to find out. Within a generation, we were able to experience the sensation of hovering from one point to another, thanks to innovators who dedicated their time and talent to making pipe dream a reality. It’s not an unusual sight to see a kid in high top sneakers hovering in malls all across the world. Perhaps – if you share an interest in science fiction, that is– you may have gazed upon Counselor Troy (Star Trek: TNG), or Princess Leia (Star Wars), or Trinity (Matrix) in the midst of their badassery or their most vulnerable moments and spared the following thought: Gosh. I wonder what technology they use to manage their periods? What kinda pads they got outchea in Deep Space 9? Do they manage to eradicate periods in the future? Because no one ever spots; no one ever craves chocolate; and no one ever has to excuse herself from the comm in order to switch out a tampon or sanitary napkin.

“I sense you are worried about your period. Like poverty, we eradicated those concerns over a century ago.”

You ever wonder about that?

No?

Oh. Maybe it’s just me.

When it comes to managing menstrual cycles, innovation seems to have stopped well over a century ago. There have been more upgrades and improvements in the device you’re holding in your hand than there have been in the pad that’s currently situated betwixt my legs. That’s pretty sad, when you consider the fact that there are 9 ways to experience your period and only half as many ways to make a phone call.  Kotex’s first advertisement for sanitary napkins made with this wood pulp appeared in 1888, while the modern tampon and applicator was patented by a physician named Earle Haas in 1929. Since then, there has been no real change in the way women experience and manage their menstrual flow. The biggest innovation to come along with sanitary pads has been peel and stick technology – and, oooo – wings! But outside of that, my great grandmother and I have used the same sad methods to stay “dry”. We’ve abolished slavery, ended Jim Crow, attained Civil Rights and achieved the impossible feat of living under America’s first (and probably last) Black president…but the sanitary napkin hasn’t evolved in 130 years.

May the Force have mercy on us all.

You know what the problem has been, don’t you? It’s because we’ve left the task to men – men who never have or never will experience what it’s like to have a massacre scene between the knees month after month. The self-same men who have the audacity to recruit lithe women draped in white to frolic through fields of daisies in insipid ads that encourage us all to have a “happy period”. How am I going to have a happy period with struggle sanitary napkins between my legs? Huh? How, Sway?!?

But there is a (not so) new hope, my sisters. As in these and all matters of women’s liberation, it is to feminists that we must look for answers. And boy, have they delivered! Thanks to these Three Bold and Blood Obsessed Feminists, I bring you glad tidings and news of our freedom!

Well, spit it out, Malaka! What is the good news?

Just let me tell the story first! As I was recovering from my brain surgery, I took the opportunity to ride the Metro around different parts of DC as I felt up to it. Whenever I was on the Red Line (and the irony has not escaped me), I kept noticing ads that featured women in black underwear and flesh toned tops. They were all faceless. There were no clues about what these ads were about other than the words “She Thinx” and a $5 off coupon when you type in the code ‘DC’ at check out. I had a pretty long ride ahead of me that day, so I Googled Thinx out of curiosity. There was no way what I was reading could be true.

So, what are Thinx???

Basically, Thinx are panties that catch your period, safely. No. For real. Basically, it works like this:

  1. You get your period
  2. You put on a pair of Thinx
  3. You change your Thinx on the same schedule as you would your regular tampon or sanitary napkin

3b.  But you don’t feel like you’ve been invaded by a little cotton alien, nor are you walking around with a butt bulge all day.

You actually get that meadow fresh feeling with Thinx!

I know, right? I was a skeptic too. There’s no WAY that this could be possible. And yet, my dear sisters, IT IS. It’s not just possible, but totally pleasurable.

Did you try them?

After a long deliberation (about two days), I ordered a pair. I had just had my period the week prior, so I had to wait for my next cycle, which began today. At $34 (minus the $5 and free shipping as a first time customer. Woohoo!), I was wary about my purchase. $34 is pretty steep price point for a pair of panties. Still, the lure of not having to soil my fingers in the process of extracting soaked cotton/gel was not one I could easily resist. Today, I put the panties through their initial paces. Being Saturday, it was a busier day than usual. There was a long ride to Sedgefield to attend the weekend market, then a hop over to George to watch a movie, and finally the long(er) ride to Plett to end the day. We left the house at 9am and got back at 4pm.

So?

So…yeah. Thinx are pretty amazing! I didn’t feel like I was having a period. There was no alien presence between my legs, and that’s huge. I don’t care how thin your ultra thins are; they can’t achieve this level of comfort. Now, for the benefit of full disclosure, I did leak through the panties on the first try, but this is not the fault of the product. They are designed to hold the equivalent of two tampons worth of blood, and as a heavy bleeder, I would have otherwise changed tampons at least once during the 7 hours I was wearing the panties. Still, the leaks weren’t high school walk of shame bad. (I wore dark denim today as a precaution.)

Are they comfortable?

You don’t even know. They mold to your curves like a perfect lover.

Are they cute?

They’re better than cute. They are grown woman panties. The panties of success and progress.

Are they absorbent?

Dude. They’re like Brawny for your bloody booty.

Is there anything you DON’T like about Thinx?

I can’t think of one thing, to be honest! I love their messaging, their packaging and their marketing campaign. I love how they take they shame out of menstruating. More women and girls than not will have periods over more than half of their lifetime. It’s a part of what makes procreation possible. Healthy periods mean healthy humanity…and yet global society has made women feel filthy, condemned and judged for having periods. Thinx messaging makes you feel like having your period is a light, funny and normal process. I’ve saved all their emails and packaging for that reason.

Any regrets?

I regret that I did not trust the makers of this product more and opt to purchase the package deal, which offers 15% off if you buy 3 or more pairs of panties. As it stands, I have to alternate between my regular sanitary napkin regime and my Thinx because I only have to one pair. That makes me sad. So very, very sad… (Visit https://www.shethinx.com/ to check out what pair might work best for your lifestyle.)

 

What do you think, ladies? Are you ready to take the plunge or are you still a skeptic? Discuss!

 

How To Survive Those Terrifying Moments When An Airline Won’t Let You Pee

The airline industry is just out of control. There hasn’t been a week that’s gone by this month that hasn’t featured some form of passenger abuse.

As a rule, I do not to travel by air. Unless the chances of reaching my destination are absolutely impossible unless by flight – say from Atlanta to Johannesburg – thereby forcing me to plunk down my hard-earned money in order to purchase an airline ticket, you can count me out of Team #FlyTheFriendlySkies. I would rather bathe in pig guano than take a domestic flight in the United States of America.

Everything about journeying by air is made to make your trip unpleasant, starting from before you enter the airport. Actually, it starts at home; with your wardrobe. Unlike traveling by car where one can dress for comfort, traveling by air requires one to dress in a manner that attracts little attention, while still achieving the goal of attracting the right kind of attention. Will wearing this hijab earn me a ‘random extra security check’? Will this afro puff serve as a magnet for those dreaded blue gloves to be run through my hair? Should I have taken the extra hour needed to straighten my hair to avoid those 15 seconds of humiliation? Am I going to get kicked off a flight for this “Smash the Patriarchy” message tee because the flight crew finds it offensive? How suspicious would I look if I just said to hell with it all and rocked up to the airport in a suit made of bubble wrap?

But you finally decide on a basic pair of jeans, flip flops and an oatmeal colored tee, all which should meet the snobbish airline’s approval. To your horror, you discover it’s not good enough. You CLEARLY look like you’re flying economy and are treated as such…like chattel. Despicable, budget shopping chattel. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Before you get to the check-in counter, you actually have to GET to the check-in counter. Before you can pass’ Go’, you have to get by that omnipresent militarized police manifestation at the loading zone. This is where you hurriedly hurl your farewells at loved ones who simultaneously hurl your luggage from their vehicle in order to avoid a telling off by that one beefy officer who is just looking for a reason to make someone else’s life as miserable as his own. It is only then that you have the opportunity to have your presence tolerated by the overly made up, wretched ticketing agent who after assessing the girth of your hips takes perverse delight in placing you in D5 (center seat, middle row), where you are guaranteed to have no leg room and no joy for the duration of your journey.

“Have a pleasant flight,” s/he chortles, baring fangs like the viper they were hired to be.

Next, you journey on to TSA. The less said about the TSA, the better. It’s a desolate place. It’s the only place on Earth where Christ’s light, life and redemption cannot touch. Every man and woman working for the TSA is Pharaoh, and we are all meek Hebrews, submitting to their coarse touch, dancing and bending and undressing at their bidding. I despise the TSA as much as they despise the public.

But you’re nearly there. You’re nearly home free. Soon you’ll be seated on the plane and on your way to your great aunt’s 85th birthday party in Washington, DC as I was in April of 2016. The stress of the pre-boarding horror show has made you thirsty, and you quench that thirst with a $6.50 bottle of water. To your shock and delight, you find that the exorbitant purchase was unnecessary. The Delta stewardess – the one with the frosty blond hair and turquoise eyeliner applied with the intensity of an artist determined on perfecting his frottage – has been handing out bottles of water for the duration of the flight. You gulp down your water AND hers because free is better and tastier, especially when its plentiful.

Suddenly, you find yourself relaxing, almost losing yourself in the hum of the engine’s jets. Maybe Delta Airlines wasn’t as bad as the last time you swore off them in 2001. Maybe things had actually gotten better with air travel since you last flew domestic. Perhaps the airlines were listening more and harassing less. And maybe – just a glimmer of a possibility – all the mayhem surrounding ticketing agents and that TSA hellhole was just in your mind. But there’s no time to think about that now. You’ve imbibed quite a bit of water and now you have to shimmy your way out of your cramped center seat, past your equally uncomfortable co-passengers and make your way to the equally cramped bathroom. Relief is swift and sweet, and you are comforted in the knowledge that there is only an hour and a half left in your journey.

Just go ahead an make these in adult sizes!
Image source: Pintrest

Finally, you land. You’ve had no more water, but you can feel that tingle in that space beneath your abdomen. You pinch your knees. Everything will be fine. It only takes a few minutes to taxi to the gate and if you play your cards right, you can leap into the aisle and be one of the first people to dash off the plane and into the terminal. But to your horror, you hear the pilot announce that there is some sort of disturbance on landing fare and it will be about another half an hour before you can taxi up to the gate. Thirty whole minutes?!? Panic begins to set in. The tingle has turned into a blaze and your bladder feels like it is alight. Still, you steady yourself. You are a full grown, 39 year old woman with a degree and you will NOT pee on yourself in the middle – the veritable center – of an airplane in economy class. However, six minutes into your ordeal, you discover that while you may be able to do all things through Christ, holding back this deluge in your guts isn’t one of them.

You turn and look helplessly at the stewardess, who sees you, but looks away.

You meekly raise your hand this time, trying in vain to make eye contact. Still, she gives you the side-eye, but stares off into the distance, likely dreaming of the trailer park that Delta lifted her out from.

Finally, it happens. You know it’s risky, but you have no choice. You unbuckle your seat belt and grin sheepishly at her. She picks up the telephone/intercom and makes the following announcement:

“Ladies and gentlemen,” says the same frosty haired whore who’s been drowning your innards with Aquafina, “in the interest of safety, please remain in your seats until the fasten seat belt sign has been turned off.”

“Yes,” you whisper as you advance cautiously, “but I have to pee.”

“Ma’am,” she says over the intercom, “please re-take your seat.”

“I can’t,” you whisper a bit louder and with much more harshness than you intend to. “I HAVE TO PEE!”

Your co-passengers are looking at you with a mix of amusement, compassion and disdain. You’re sweating and clearly desperate, and everyone is waiting to see what will happen next. Will you be allowed to urinate? Will you just piss on yourself for all to see? It all comes down to the whims of the frosty haired wench sitting primly in her stewardess’s chair. Finally, she alerts the pilot that there is a passenger who needs to use the toilet on the stationary plane and nods you by, but not without giving you one, final contemptuous look. As you exit the lavatory, you mumble your thanks like a placid school kid and retake your seat in the center aisle, humiliated. You vow once again never to fly the “friendly skies” and haven’t done so since.

But there is a solution to all of this, don’cha know? Since the aim of the airline industry is to shame, humiliate and inconvenience paying customers, I say we assist them in their goal. As fate would have it, Facebook filtered onto my feed the tale of Kima Hamilton – a Milwaukee resident who found himself in circumstances similar to the ones I experienced – as well as a corresponding memory from 2013.

Yes. This really happened.

Unlike Mr. Hamilton, my experience did not end with FBI involvement (for which I am grateful), however we did share a mutual uncontrollable urge to go right now. If the airlines can’t trust thinking adults to know when we need to use the bathroom, then I say we behave like the toddlers they think we all are.

Go ahead and pee on yourself.

No. I’m dead serious.

Every traveller carries essential items with him or her, those generally being ID, a cell phone, gum and reading material. Throw a pull-up or two in the mix. That why, when Frosty Haired Wendy won’t let you pee, you have the satisfaction of 1) Urinating in your seat while 2) fully complying with both the pilot’s and federal guidelines and best of all 3) leaving the plane knowing full well that Frosty the Snow Bitch has to pick up your soaked sack of Huggies.

I’m a big kid now!

 Nah. For real. I’m tired of these domestic airlines. Who are they taking notes from? The Amistad?

Have you ever had to pee and been denied access to the toilet on the plane? Are you toying with the idea of taking some Depends with you on your next flight? Admit it…you are. What shall we call our movement? Something catchy…Like the AirKelly: Piss on you in B2.

Let’s work on it.