April 20, 2014

Sweet Tea Tuesday: A Clear Day’s Reflection

I’d just begun to date a letter to my friend Katie, because I’m going to work harder on my interpersonal skills in the new year. “January 1, 2010… uh, er, duh”, I say as I crumple the paper and pause. I sat for a few moments in deep thought and silence until the sound of the paper escaping my tenuous grasp jarred me.

A new year, and a resolute new beginning, all within twenty-four hours and for some of us, with a hangover no less. This is totally feasible. Not. In fact I can’t think of any worse way to start a new year than with the pressure of staying committed to some arbitrary cause I thought up whilst making yet another trip to the restroom. Surely, anything of significant life-altering importance shouldn’t be contingent on Dick Clark’s OK. Is Dick Clark, okay? I digress.

So, I’m sitting here staring at the piece of paper that’s fallen to the floor and thinking how I don’t really feel like reaching out today. I also thought about how happy I’ve been in virtual seclusion for the past 4 months, since I’ve trimmed my already lean social circle. Still reflecting, I looked down at my hands, brilliantly battered from the creativity that helped bring my family comfortably through another year with me in the home. Then, I rose and stretched and sneaked a peek under chairs and behind closed doors where children of the rescued and now, thankfully barren womb variety rest peacefully, and I smiled. Then, I returned to my desk and instead of writing Katie, who I know will understand, I wrote this post.

More than a resolution, we can all use a moment of quiet reflection; an in the moment realization that our mere presence, however small, makes a big difference in its current, perfectly imperfect state. So, have a cookie, skip your jog, ignore the phone, cuss, shop, sit a while. It’s OK, tell ‘em Dick Clark said so, that seems to be working.

T. Allen-Mercado

T. Allen-Mercado

T.Allen-Mercado is a mixed media artist, award-winning essayist, student of anthropology, blogger, wife and, mother of two.

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Sweet Tea Tuesdays: The who, the what, the why

The who, the what, the why | Sweet Tea Tuesdays | by T. Allen-Mercado | We of HueWelcome to We of Hue, and welcome back to Sweet Tea Tuesdays! I am T. Allen-Mercado and this is my weekly column about any and all things I believe relevant - or so irrelevant, they’ve become discussion-worthy.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with my work on Moms of Hue or my personal blog, Tea and Honey Bread, I guess I should give you a taste of the who.

I…eh, let’s do it in third person. Tameka is a mixed media artist, decorated veteran wife and mother of two. She is a devoted (tried and quite religiously tested) advocate of gentle, instinctive and attached parenting, a young-adult parenting amateur, and a harried un/homeschooler. All of these great feats take place in a modest cat-filled home in Arizona.

A native of Queens, New York, Tameka lives her life left of center…like way left. That doesn’t however interfere with her ability to dutifully respect your right to share in the oft-inspiring, sometimes anger-inciting, but always insightful magic of her musings. Sweet Tea Tuesdays’ essays are sweet, sometimes bittersweet excerpts from the complete works of a work in progress.

Tameka’s writings are about shared and new experiences, in parenting, marriage, growth, camaraderie, kinship; with requisite spatterings of comedy. If we’re gonna get up and do this thing we call life day after day, we may as well do it in good company, with sweet tea (or imported beer); the devil is in the details.

So, what do you say? You, me, some friends and a couple o’ mason jars  filled with sweet tea? Next Tuesday, same place, same time. Save the date, ’til then keep it groovy.

T. Allen-Mercado

T. Allen-Mercado

T.Allen-Mercado is a mixed media artist, award-winning essayist, student of anthropology, blogger, wife and, mother of two.

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Sweet Tea Tuesday: Straight trippin’, Boo

Saturday morning, the leading man and I set out on a road trip to the California coast, sans children. This is the first time we’ve been away from the child/ren since 1997. (We were still a party of three until 1999.)This does not include them ditching us for slumber parties and the like.

There’s been much talk of weddings lately, and very little about making unions work, whatever the method of conjoining. This trip, although a business trip on the surface, was a study on why we’ve worked for 22 years and why we’ll work for many, many more.

Joseph and I talked for hours (Please give my darling husband a huge round of applause, this was quite the feat for him.) about everything from Katy Perry on Sesame Street to theories on the methodology of U.S. Border Patrol. These lengthy exchanges of thoughts and theory are an integral means for keeping communication open and healthy. Even in discussing and debating the most seemingly superfluous topics, we strengthen our ability to take on and tackle things that bring weaker unions to peril.

We mingled. We don’t get out much, er…okay we don’t leave home much, by choice. We’re fairly introverted, but something about getting out, even for a short spell recharges us. Admittedly, there’s something pretty flattering about watching women flirt with my husband, or with me for that matter. Nobody, and I don’t care what you say-wants someone that nobody else wants. So, in short, it feels pretty damn good to still “hook up” after 22 years.

We missed the children. I called. He texted, probably because it was more discrete than my incessant calling. Laughs. Although we were frolicking about this strange city, and melding nicely with the other frolickers, we were still grounded in this thing we started. There’s often the misconception among single folks that married people miss the lives we once had, this simply isn’t true. Balance in everything is key.

We had fun doing absolutely nothing. Whether walking down the street people watching, or sitting in the car each other watching, a smile, at times even a burst of laughter was just within reach. The energy was palpable, the space between the next word and the last was filled with the beautiful silence that people in love share.

That energy is still palpable, as is the joint pain from sitting in the car for hours, then dancing-of course, with added alcohol-induced flexibility, and back in the car for hours. And, totally worth it, every second, every acetaminophen- if nothing more than to slow it all down long enough to realize that all these years later, you’re still straight trippin’ over your “Boo”.

This week, make it a priority to seize a moment, light a spark, ignite a flame.

See our road trip at a glance on my personal blog: Tea & Honey Bread.

T. Allen-Mercado

T. Allen-Mercado

T.Allen-Mercado is a mixed media artist, award-winning essayist, student of anthropology, blogger, wife and, mother of two.

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Sweet Tea Tuesday: Peer pressure for parents

I’m sure we’ve all been there at one time or another, visiting with friends or family who don’t exactly subscribe to our parenting ideology, yes? The day is idyllic, the children are frolicking about in sheer jubilance, when from your well-trained periphery you see someone else’s child approaching you. Now, let me digress for a moment to ask if any of you know the method to the have-the-other-child-ask-your-mother-something-of-which-you-know-damn-well-she’s-going-to-answer-with-a-resounding-no madness? Why did we/they do that? The jury is still out on whether it’s actually worked before. Perhap, it is some retaliatory payback scheme for the “pushy kid”, as your mom shuts him down with the seamless and simultaneous execution of the side-eye, lip purse, teeth suck, 360 eye roll, segued into the “Jedi death stare” which holds you both paralyzed whilst she untangles her hand from her purse strap to deliver the stern index finger finale accompanied by the unapologetic and painstakingly curt, “No”. Then , you smile over on the sidelines thinking, “Go on ask her again, I double dog dare you”. Miss, [Insert your child's name] wants to know if he/she can go/do/see/eat _______ with all of us. Sigh.

But, what happens when the other parents chime in and offer their opinions? “Oh let ‘em go, my children go all the time”. “Girl, nothing is going to happen to them kids”. Then there’s the one parent who volunteers the supervisory services of her child whose antics you and your significant other (or not) have already discussed at great length. Raised eyebrows. Yeah, that child. So, what do you do?

I’ll tell you what I do, see above reference for coinciding body language directive. I say, “No”. Then, I assertively, albeit politely…Okay, well I’m still working on the politely, but have gotten better. Boy have I gotten better. -ask them not to undermine our plan, because I know my child/ren. And, it works! But, y’know, I’ve seen some times when it hasn’t worked; when an attempt to stand firm isn’t even made, when solid parenting falls victim to peer pressure.

There are two main ways this plays out. The first is textbook transference: when the other child approaches, the parent immediately turns to their own child and sternly states, “You know we do not do_____”. When the other parents chime in the parent becomes increasingly frustrated but still directs the statement to their child, the co-pressuree rather than at the parents who are now the co-pressurers. You do see the pattern here, yes? Lead by example, parents.

Then the second way, and equally as likely to play out in these instances, is the blame game. The parent will initially say, “no”, followed by a reticent, “yes”, either at the behest of the other parents, children, or, a combination of the two; with their own child’s puppy dog eyes thrown in for good measure. You caved, and when your child returns/experiences some level of the horror you imagined would come of the experience, you blame everyone up to and including The First Family. You bet, equally uncool.

Has this happened to you? Someone you know? Did you even notice it happening or realize that parents do indeed experience peer pressure at some level? Please share your experiences, or take heed if you’ve yet to experience it, peer pressure for parents is undoubtedly coming to a family/friends gathering near you.

T. Allen-Mercado

T. Allen-Mercado

T.Allen-Mercado is a mixed media artist, award-winning essayist, student of anthropology, blogger, wife and, mother of two.

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The damsel conundrum

Scoots forward in chair, adjusts eyeglasses and smiles. The Damsel Conundrum, breathes. Some time ago I touched upon hueism and sexuality in my The Blacker the Berry post. It was from the male perspective, and for the most part is was second hand knowledge, my thoughts on the experiences of my son-a fairer hued Black man. This time, it’s “T” time, a little y’all and me time.

The Damsel Conundrum, is a phrase I came up with in response to a conversation with a girlfriend about the casting in one (or all, they’re pretty much the same I bet, although I haven’t subjected myself to all of ‘em) of Tyler Perry’s films. I pointed out to my girlfriend, who is white, that I took issue with the media’s portrayal of women of color, specifically darker hued women. It led to some very interesting conversation and observations about the way dark-skinned Black women are viewed and valued in society as a whole. I noted a dearth presence of princess and damsel-like roles for women who look like me. She agreed and likened it to the stereotype of the ditzy blonde. “I guess, sans the historical context”, I added.

Some time ago, my daughter was teased in the playground about her “bi-racial” make up. When she entered the house, the child who accompanied her came to me all aglow and proudly announced that Yael had just warned the children who were teasing her about her lack of qualifying Blackness, to not make her “Get black on [them]“. Blank stares abound, as I nearly wipe the skin clean off my hands with the dishtowel. Knowing full well that Yael knows not the gravity of this statement, I evict the beaming friend and initiate a discussion about what being Black and moreover what “getting Black on folks” means to her. The discussion led me to Nickelodeon’s True Jackson VP, of all places. True, as Yael tells me is, “like you mom, she’s brown and smart and tough, she sticks up for herself.” Nods head in equal parts understanding and befuddlement. Intelligence and assertion, sounds fair enough, but is that really what she was receiving? Much like the conversation I’d just had with my girlfriend about all the neck-rolling, sass and ‘tude, here it was again, “angry Blackness”.

I suppose Yael’s statement in and of itself should have made me feel better, y’know the part about being smart and sticking up for herself, but it didn’t. When I sat down with my husband later that evening, I surprised myself with what I expressed. I said to him that I was bothered by the invincibility clause assigned to my Blackness and that it reminded me in some ways of the racialism that plagues Black males and renders them scary. It felt like an affront to my womanhood, it demeaned my femininity and moreover it grouped and claimed me; I felt beholden to an ideal, that Black woman is different from woman, and the damsel conundrum was born. I expressed to him how often I felt Black womanhood came with a separate, unequal set of ideals and expectations.

There are many facets to the conundrum, and the problem of hueism as a whole, but before I go into more examples in the next week or so, I wanted to open the discussion for my readers to share their own experiences, personal and/or professional. Do you feel or have you experienced situations where you felt your gender/womanhood/femininity or worth was measured on some gradient scale of race and/or hue? Can you name a film or literary damsel or princess of color? Are we beholden to the stereotypes of perpetual sass, ‘tude and bad assery? What are your thoughts?

T. Allen-Mercado

T. Allen-Mercado

T.Allen-Mercado is a mixed media artist, award-winning essayist, student of anthropology, blogger, wife and, mother of two.

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Sweet Tea Tuesday: Rolling stones

Ah yes, Rolling Stones,The Aftermath: unfortunately, this is not about a rock band, but rather a band of children. Shifts position at the table. This is about me, the four siblings I’ve learned of, and the couple I’ve met in the past 12 years.

Now, let me preface this by saying that I’d heard the whispers of “grown folks’ business” betwixt my grandmother and her coffee, toast and jam crew. My parents were young and free-early 1970s free. My mother-a progressive womanist-sans title at the time -prided herself on being a woman who’d taken on a man, not one taken and stripped of her person and name.

It all seemed simple enough then, y’know when life was simple. I had two sets of grandparents, and as the years progressed and my mother partnered with my stepfather, some aunts and uncles too. Really, who can’t use twice as much guilt-laden grandparental and familial love?! In truth, I know they loved and love me infinitely, but what I also know to be true is that they feared the worst. They wondered, worried anxiously about the aftermath of all of this free-rolling love.

Well, here we are some 37 years later and I’m trying to explain to my children where these aunts and uncles are coming from. Awkwardly describing-whilst trying to decipher-how it is that social networking sites have been more instrumental in the cohesion of our “family” than its founders were. Plugging dates and tracing steps, wondering just how often we’d each crossed paths in one place or another, oblivious of one another. Navigating the tenderness of words, premeditatively placing careted words like “other” between “my” and “brother”. Breathes slowly and deeply.

The dynamic is incredibly complex, because on the one hand I’m morbidly curious and fascinated by the similarities in features, stature, orthodonture, cadence, tonal inflections and more. Yet, it’s apparent each of us, in our own ways are protective- guarded even- of our foundations, of the families we grew up in, the pieces of our Selves we were able to salvage, safeguard and restore as the stones rolled.

T. Allen-Mercado

T. Allen-Mercado

T.Allen-Mercado is a mixed media artist, award-winning essayist, student of anthropology, blogger, wife and, mother of two.

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