Thursday, July 30, 2009

Oh No You Didn't!

This is an interesting analysis from of those kgb commercials. I had a problem with the portrayal of the black women in the "Weave" commercial mainly because of the neck-rolling, "Oh-no-you-didn't!" attitude coming from the woman. Plus, I saw it after watching that anti-drug commercial in which the boy's guardian (black) angel had a neck-rolling, "Oh-no-you-didn't!" attitude. My goodness, do all black women go through life with attitudes?

Anyway, I hadn't thought this deeply about the commercial, but the writer makes some thought-provoking comments.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

MTV Finally Got It Right

I have gone against my principles and started watching 16 and Pregnant and today I even auto tuned my TV to view "Life after Labor", the reunion show. I'm glad this show exists because it puts a more realistic, less romanticized view of parenthood before teenagers. Maybe it will help prevent unwanted pregnancies before they happen (an effort I don't believe we are realistically actively engaged in as a nation).

Part of the realism is the toll pregnancy and parenthood takes on one's relationship. I remember thinking as a teenager how wonderful it would be to marry my then-boyfriend and have a baby. That was foolish; it would be awful and hard and considering the fact that I didn't marry my then-boyfriend (we actually broke up before dating a year), lonely and heartbreaking. Those issues come out on the show.

In a more trivial, but still real instance, one of the young moms-to-be was trying to decide when to take her senior pictures and her mother told her she would be all puffy after the birth. The girl said she didn't plan to be puffy. Because she didn't know; in the romantic version of pregnancy (even for non-teenagers), you're beautiful and glow-ey as a pregnant woman/new mom. Yeah, but in real life, that ain't true and she was puffy. So, the show is good in revealing some of the truth about pregnancy.

I know you have discussed these issues before, SM, but I was so moved by one of the hard truths demonstrated in the series through the story of Catelynn that I had to write about it as well. Her story broke my heart. She and her boyfriend made the heart wrenching decision to give their baby up for adoption. It was an incredibly mature and--as they said 12,000 times in the reunion show--brave decision to make. I cried as I watched those kids give up their baby. In the abstract you think, this will be a good thing because they can go on with their lives and the baby will be happy and etcetera etcetera. But watching Catelynn go through the birth and her boyfriend sob afterward because he had to hand over his daughter to virtually strangers, you recognize that there are no easy choices in this situation. I was especially moved by this story, in part because I put myself and our Popcorn in their place and it was unbearable. My heart goes out to Catelynn and anyone who makes the difficult choice to give a baby up for adoption.

Having a baby is more than a notion, man. . . .

Friday, July 24, 2009

Loss of an Artist--Again

Writer E. Lynn Harris died today at 54.

Before anybody was talking about the "down low" E. Lynn Harris pulled back the curtains, whether we wanted to see or not. I was not his biggest fan, but I'm saddened at the loss of a brave artist who offered his truth, his stories, his talent. Perhaps he still had more to tell us.


In my endless self-reflection I'm realizing that when things are sliding downhill for me, I just have to let somebody (everybody?) know.

Now, signs are pointing towards heaven again--I guess they always were, huh?--and I'm trying to get better at letting everybody know that, too.

So, today I believe that good stuff will materialize.

Just thought I'd share.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Henry Louis Gates has a Mug Shot?

Still basking in the happy glow of The Diva's welcome baby shower about a week ago, I received a call from our home security company: the alarm had been tripped. My first thought was that it was an accident. That calming thought only lasted a moment, though. I knew what had happened; someone was in our home. Someone unclean and uncouth. Someone who was, at that very moment, rambling through our clothes and knocking over my children's playthings. Someone who was leaving dirty footprints on our carpets, where there were already chocolate milk stains. We were out of town and there was almost nothing we could do. I was horrified and frightened.

Thankfully, the scenario in my head never fully materialized. The criminals must have been scared off by the alarm and the minor security deterrents we had in place. Although they broke a window, scattering glass all over our family room and our children's toys, they didn't actually enter the house and nothing was taken.

When I saw the reports that well-respected scholar Henry Louis Gates had been arrested

in front of his own home, I thought of the stories of men I knew: "mistaken" identity, ill-placed suspicion, overzealous police officers, assumptions of guilt. My husband, for example, delivered pizzas in college and was put in handcuffs repeatedly because he was driving in "suspicious" neighborhoods with "too much" cash. He was also robbed repeatedly, but I'm not sure that anything ever became of that. Gates' work on the African American experience made him a rock star in his field. Reports that he was yelling, "This is what happens to a black man in America!" seem sad and appropriate.

What strikes close to home for me is that there were several police officers at his home, it seems, in response to his "erratic" behavior. I'm wondering if several officers would show up only in response to his break-in. That certainly was not the case for us. One officer showed up--after 30 minutes and repeated phone calls. He called several days later to ask if anything was missing or if we had any information to offer. It wasn't much, but we appreciated the time and attention. Last year, we had another break-in at one in the afternoon while I was upstairs alone. There were at least four dirty criminals who rammed my door open that day, but when I called 911 it still took more than 20 minutes for an officer to show up. We never got a follow up call and there were never any leads. I was so scared, and stayed locked in the guest room upstairs talking to the 911 operator. I saw the stinking criminals burn rubber out of my driveway, but I had no idea if one of them was left downstairs in my house, waiting to beat me to death while the police moved like molasses. I've also had my car broken into twice and--nothing.
I'm not saying that the police should have gone all CSI because my CDs were stolen while my car was on the side of the expressway. But I do really wish that somebody would get excited about the loss of my sense of safety and the money it costs us to fix the damage. I certainly felt like yelling, and I'm sure I would have if I hadn't been so scared (the officer practically laughed at me when I burst into tears); so Gates' reaction to being arrested--I'm sure that's why they wanted him to step outside in the first place--seems right on the money to me.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Birth Control

By now, it must be clear that I love television. Add a compelling real-life story, and I'm hooked. The latest thing that's got me on the line is MTV's "Sixteen and Pregnant." I'm interested in part because I had such wonderful and fascinating birth experiences. I'm also interested because I will have teenagers, and before I know it, according to the older parents I know. I'm learning a lot about how they think. Most of it is less than encouraging. But I'm still enthralled by the drama.

I heard once of a mother who decided that she would not allow her teenage daughter to have pain management drugs during labor; this was her version of birth control. At the time, I thought it was creative and brilliant. Certainly a horribly painful "natural" birth would remind this girl to use a condom next time, right? Now, having had two unmedicated deliveries, I can say that the pain is something of a "blocker" when it comes to making more babies. I loved my birth experiences, but man, it slows me down when I think about having more children. As I was going to the MTV website to look for follow-up info on the families (yes, I realize that this is ridiculous, but it's the summer and I like my fluffy guilty pleasures--let me be!), I started to wonder if teenage viewers would see the couples on the show as celebrities, complete with a sweet-smelling mini-me. Only one of the featured teens has offered her baby for adoption, so perhaps it seems easy to raise a child.

The show does highlight the very difficult issues of teen parenthood. Securing housing and employment, lack of social life, lack of sleep, broken relationships, stunted education, and an altered body are part of the story. But the constant day-to-day of parenthood, especially when you don't have resources, could easily be lost on a viewership not known for looking beyond on the nose on their faces. I'm constantly reminded in my own life that trying to raise a child and be the kind of parent I want to be would really suck if I had only sixteen years of life experience and wasn't even prepared to take care of myself. I hope that being "Sixteen and Pregnant" doesn't make it look like too much fun.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Upon watching the "Primetime" show with Joe Jackson:

Add him to the list of people who should sit down somewhere and hush.


There was an article in Inside Higher Ed about how women, especially in academics, settle far too frequently for less money and perks than they really have coming to them. They don't negotiate and jump at whatever crumbs are offered. I was wondering if I did that today. Of course, the position doesn't have any wiggle room, so perhaps I didn't settle. But if I were offered the next level in rank (is this ever going to actually happen????) I'm not sure I even know what I would ask for. More money? Breaks for research? And if they said no, I'm sure I would just slink away.

All this leads me think about what I'm worth. Since I finished my doctorate, I keep complaining that I don't get paid what I'm worth. I remind my husband as frequently as possible that I have more education than he does. But the reality is that my job searches are severely limited because even if I'm offered my dream job, I could never command a salary that would make it worth moving. His salary is easily double--okay, triple--what I made at my last job. (Just typing that sentence makes me want to cry). Obviously, piling more and more education on your resume doesn't exactly translate into dollars.

I'm not writing this to complain . . . much, but I'm finding it really difficult to wrap my mind around how I should be defining "worth." If I had stopped at the BA and worked throughout my twenties, I would have paid off a big chunk of my undergraduate loans and still be making more money than I do now. But I really do love the wiggle room in my schedule, and working with students (whose parents I'm not even allowed to talk to), the ability to do research on topics I'm truly excited about, and summers that I can use in whatever ways I see fit.

In my upcoming position, I'm thrilled at the salary, which is higher than my very low expectations. But what does it mean that my expectations are so low? When I told my husband the salary offer, he asked if they got confused and thought that I was starting in one of the science departments. Ha, ha. It's an interesting phenomenon.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Stuff I'm thinking about

So, I returned from vacation a few days ago and was feeling quite lovely. Vacations are a wonderful, wonderful thing. I played on the beach with the crumbsnatchers and hubby. They loved it. My daughter happily discovered that she could float in the pool "all by myself" with her tube-attached suit. My son sprawled lazily in my lap while we rode the current in the lazy river. I had a massage along with my mommy friends. It was a good time. In fact, lots of things are looking up. Scary things are looking a bit less scary. I'm grateful.

Perhaps that's why so much of the relentless MJ coverage is rolling off my back like water on a duck. Watching the family is heartbreaking. Everyone else should sit down somewhere.

Just before we left for our vacation, I did this crazy thing. My girlfriend got married and her pictures were so incredibly gorgeous that I decided that if I could stuff myself into my wedding dress, I would do a photo session. For a couple of reasons, I never took a full session of portraits in my bridal get-up and always regretted it. I planned to do it on our first anniversary, but we were making a major move. After that, life kept getting in the way. Then I just decided that I would have to do it now if I were ever going to do it, I don't like living with regrets, and it would be a moot point in about five minutes when I couldn't get the dress on anymore. Luckily, I went on the painfully-yank-out-my-teeth-so-I-can-only-eat-soup diet and viola!--the dress zipped right up. It was exciting, if a little embarrassing. I mean, who takes bridal portraits years after they get married? Still, I was reminded how much I love, love, love weddings. So, now I'm fighting the urge to emerge myself in all things wedding again. The information is useless to me, and it kind of makes me feel sucky because it introduces all these great new ideas that I can't use--because I already had my wedding a bunch of years ago. Anyway, I'm obsessively waiting for the proofs. Yay!

And now I love both "Ace of Cakes" and "Cake Boss". My interest probably has something to do with the possibility of seeing wedding cakes, and the lack of summer viewing, but both are suddenly really interesting to me.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Small Sacrifices

In the wake of Michael Jackson's death many people say that they are sooo concerned for his children, but it seems to me the kids are just a means by which interviewers can gain ratings and interviewees can have 15 minutes of fame. Why is there now public speculation about the biological father of the two oldest kids? I mean, yes, I always said those two kids were not MJ's, but I didn't go looking for the actual father. Why would they broadcast the information that not only is Michael Jackson not the biological father, but also that the dermatologist is? What if the kids didn't know? And what are they supposed to think about the way they were conceived and transferred (for lack of a better word)? Is there no need for discretion?

It also bothers me that MJ spent so much effort hiding the identity of his children. They wore masks and hats and blankets so that no one would be able to identify them as Michael Jackson's children. Now, immediately after his death, people are plastering their faces all over the news. I know people think that was just a part of MJ's kookiness, but I believe he wanted those kids to have some semblance of a normal life. Something that couldn't be achieved if everybody knows what they look like. The other day Blanket's godfather had pictures and home videos of the kids on The Today Show. What's crazy is he also showed a video of the time he rented out a supermarket so that Mike could shop and fill up a shopping cart like a regular person. It's crazy because he was well aware of the cost of fame for Michael Jackson; this man had never been able to even go grocery shopping like a regular person. Now, however, the godfather was participating in making it difficult for Prince, Paris and Blanket to go shopping like a regular person without being mobbed.
You can disagree, but I really don't think these people are all that concerned about the best interest of the children.
In other news, Mark Sanford doesn't seem to be caring all that much about the best interest of the children. His children. First, dude, create a cover story. If you are going to run away to cheat on your wife and you are the governor of a state, you cannot just disappear. Put your ducks in a row before you leave. Second, and this relates to the kids, SHUT UP! I get that you are in love with your mistress, but for the dignity and emotional health of your children, stop flaunting it all up and through the public. Stop (inadvertently) dogging your wife--your sons' mother--by saying she ain't the one. You may feel this way, but respect the marriage and your sons' view of their mother enough not to say it out loud. My mama always taught me that everybody ain't got to know your business.
The community's public persona gives a lot of lip service to the concern for children, but I think we ought to actually do what's in their best interest rather than just talking about it.