April 24, 2014

The Black woman’s burden

As much as I try not to, I often find myself spending more time than I care to admit watching reality television.  I absolve myself from total responsibility for my actions.  It is hard to avoid.  Whether it’s 500lb little people parenting sextuplets or aged rockers engaging in mass va-jay-jay testing (or dating shows… whatever), no matter which station I turn to I find myself drawn into the absurdity and calling my girlfriends to engage in mindless banter about what such-and-such did or did not do.  This Sunday night was no different when I nestled up with a big piece of cake and watched NFL player, Chad Ochocinco’s newest reality show, “The Ultimate Catch.”

Now, if you’ve watched dating shows before, the premise is no different from the rest.  Through “dates” and challenges, Ochocinco must eliminate a woman each week until in the end, he finds his “ultimate catch.”   Although the premise of his show is nothing unique, what’s sparking somewhat of a stir is the noticeable absence of black women in his dating pool.

Earlier this week, I was watching The Wendy Williams show and Ochocinco was a guest.  The visibly concerned talk show host pointedly asked Ochocinco to explain the absence of black women on his dating show.  After gratuitously professing his love for black women, the NFL player explained he loved all women, not just black women.  And for what it’s worth, Wendy was sure to point out that Ochocinco was also the proud parent of four children parented by three black women.

For what it’s worth.

A little later in the week, I read an interview with Ochocinco on Essence.com in which he offered a much more defensive answer.  In response to a similar line of questioning he responded: “I’ve never heard other races complaining about their men dating outside of their race besides Black people. I hate that we continue to pull that race card. Experience life in general. It’s not that there’s not enough of us because I’m going to deal with y’all anyway, I always have. [People] make it an issue because it’s now on camera.”  He went on to say he understood why black women may take issue with his choice but “but I still can’t appease you. I have a preference. I’m not trying to appease you on my show. I’m trying to find happiness for me and it doesn’t come from just dealing with one type of woman.” 

So, I would absolutely be lying if I say I did not get a little irritated by Ochocinco’s response.  But not for the reason you may thinking.    I grew up in a very liberal household where my mother often dated men outside of her race.  My brother is married to a woman of a different ethnicity and in the heart of my teenage years; I had posters of everyone from Brad Pitt to LL Cool J on my wall. Although I ultimately married a black man, I dated outside of my race in the past and never felt like less of a black woman for doing so. Call me crazy, I have always had a thing for good looking men who treated me well.  That brand of man can come in a variety of packages.  Suffice it to say, I am not opposed to interracial dating nor have I taken a personal stake it who other members of “my” race decide to date.  As a mom of two boys, my primary concern for when they begin dating is that they are happy.  Of course I noticed that the vast majority of women on his show were not black; I am proud to say I see color.  However, I just don’t feel this sense of ownership over him or any other black man.   I resented the fact that he addressed black women as if we all cared what he did or who he dated.

One of my closest girlfriends is Hispanic and has dated predominately black men for the majority of the fifteen years I have known her. Although we rarely talk about it, she has mentioned to me the “looks” she gets from black women on occasion when out on a date.  Conversely, my girlfriend who has been in a long relationship with a white man has mentioned the warm reception she gets from white women when out with her beau.  I can’t help but feel somewhat embarrassed.  Why is it that as black women we are building this reputation for being less tolerant?  Why does an NFL player have to explain his dating preference to us just because he is black? Am I remiss for not wanting to jump on the bandwagon to hoard black men for eligible black women, or save our race from sort of impending destruction?

Tiara Faith McCray

Tiara Faith McCray

Tiara is native of New York City and reluctant resident of the DC Metro Area. She is a writer in her heart but a lawyer by profession. She is a wife and also a mom to two boys. She is a self proclaimed and self loving oddball. She is determined to find both spirituality and happiness and like any true totalitarian matriarch, impose both on her family. She is wise enough to know that this may not happen simultaneously.

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A girl’s best friend

I met him one Christmas morning as my brother, sisters and I snuck downstairs to take a peek at the gifts under the tree.  He was sleeping there so peacefully until her heard us whispering in excitement when we saw him.  This may sound like a story, but it was a true event in my life.  That Christmas morning  I met and fell in love with the most beautiful mutt I have ever met and he and I were inseparable. He was a  German Shepherd and a Terrier mix, but he looked a lot like a black and white Lassie.  We didn’t give him a name because as we were told by mom he already had a name, Bootsy (yes, he was named after the p-funk singer Bootsy Collins). The name to us was unusual, but for some reason, it fit him and it grew on us.  Out of all the kids, I think I was taken by this dog the most because for years I had been begging my mother for a pet. After many failed attempts of me taking in strays, my mother gave in. I, like my father before me, was a sucker for dogs but I also loved other animals as well.  I think I drove my mother crazy with my declarations of wanting to be a veterinarian when I grew up.

Bootsy wasn’t a tough, fighting dog, He didn’t do any fancy tricks, but he had a great sense of direction and he protected us whenever we were out and he sensed danger.  I remember him being with us everywhere we would travel.  He’d keep my mother safe when we were away at camp, or visiting daddy for the summer, and he’d wag his tail in excitement when we returned home.  He was always there when we got home from school, and he’d position himself under the dinner table just right so he could “catch” the red beans or any other undesirable food  I “accidentally”  dropped on the floor.   When we tried to rush back home before the streetlights came on, Bootsy was there with us barking at us to hurry up, and when I lay down to sleep Bootsy slept at my feet ready to fight my nightmares away.  I really think that Bootsy loved me most because when he got hit by a car,  I was there to bandage him up. Believe it or not, he didn’t get hurt too bad because he managed to hobble away. Being the vet of the house, I had the chore of cleaning and dressing his bandages every day when no one else would.  When I was sick I could remember him licking my hand as if he knew everything was going to be alright, and as soon as I was better HE’D take ME out for ice cream (Ha!).    Everyone in town knew Bootsy because when he wasn’t with my sisters and I, he would hang out with the neighborhood dogs and patrol the area.  People would tell me, “I just saw your dog, he was heading back to your house” or ” I have some bones for your dog if you don’t mind” .  I they saw us without him, they would always ask of his whereabouts. From what I heard, Bootsy had some little black and white clones running around as well, though I have never seen any (he did have a brother Tiger,  who looked a lot like him but shorter).

It took me by surprise when Bootsy didn’t show up  one night for dinner.  We all knew something had to be wrong when for a second night there was still no Boosty in sight. We had other animals in the house and I think they might have wondered the same thing.  It was I who asked my mom to take me out to search for him because I knew that wherever he was, he needed me.  We didn’t find Bootsy that night or any night thereafter.  Someone once said that a dog will leave when it know it is nearing it’s time of death, to spare it’s owner from grief. I don’t  know how true this statement is but it sort of fits this scenario. In my heart, I knew he was gone forever.  I missed my best friend.  I can’t believe this but, as I type this I struggle to fight back the tears for my fallen friend.   Years later, I can recall a dream I once had with him in it.  I really think it was him sending me a message that he was doing alright.  To this day, I think he still communicates to me in dreams.

I have since moved on and have had many other pets that have been pampered and loved as I did he.  Although it was painful to loose him, having him for a friend (I do not believe he was a “Pet”) taught me about life, love, and loss at a young age. Though it might sound traumatic it’s something we all need to learn early.

Today, I have two cats, Smokey and Sebastian and a beautiful Doberman Pinscher named Zeus, whom I love as if they were my children.  Like Bootsy and all my other animals, they follow me everywhere I go, and they are very pampered.

I dedicate this post to Zeus, who will be 6 years old this Saturday.  Happy Birthday Zeus!

Sweet Tea Tuesday: A woman’s worth

She rolls the mile; makes you smile, all the while being true.
Don’t take for granted the passions that she has for you.
You will lose, if you choose, to refuse to put her first.

-Alicia Keys

Last week over coffee, a gal pal and I discussed current events, specifically the divorce of a certain rich golf guy and his (sung just like the line in Alanis Morrissette’s, “Ironic“) be-a-u-tiful wife. Now, I gotta tell you, I steer away from celebrity gossip because there is a fine line between fame and infamy that is often, and quite sickeningly blurred, but this topic wasn’t about fame and fortune for me, truly-it was about principle.

Underneath the Spanx, ruffles and chintz is a woman, at some point before the single ladies toss all dignity to the wind, and get down straight derby style for the bouquet, there is an agreement; a contractual obligation. Please highlight “obligation”, in the US there is a 65% chance you will come back to this line.

Marriage is a union “…that establishes a family: a social unit whose functions are to regulate sexual activity, to produce and raise children with a particular social identity and cultural skills and to constitute a basic economic unit”. (Heider, 2007) Historically, and to this day in some cultures women have been and are still maimed and murdered for marital transgressions: potential, real and imagined.

Following our lively discussion, my gal pal becomes entangled in the same discussion on the 4th of July, at grillside. The stench aroma of charred flesh, free-flowing spirits and men, this is not exactly home court advantage. She called me later to tell me of the men’s position, not surprisingly, they felt it wasn’t her money, that she didn’t deserve that much money.

Don’t get me wrong, I agree it is quite a large sum of money no matter which of the numerous settlement quotes you go with. To that end, it still befuddles me that hitting a ball can generate that kind of income, I digress. Part of me hopes she’ll start a fund for the wives of less fiscally fortuitous, fornicatin’ (insert alliteratively apropos expletive here). But the other, more serious part of me feels that even in the most simplistic tribal cultures, there is a price and a set of responsibilities which must be adhered when starting a family; a price that has led to genocide of female babies, and the inhumane treatment and murders of many women. These acts have been carried out as a deterrent, and as a means to protect marriage as both a sacrament and a basic economic unit.

Why then, when women here in the “civilized” US of A set out -in accordance with societal norms and legal governance- to do exactly that- is their worth in question? Is worth relative? Is only women’s worth relative? Is the big payout the cultural evolution of stoning, what say 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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Kiss the girls

It’s 5:00 pm.  I am running late for my son’s 5:15 pm check-up, as usual, and all of me, eight months pregnant belly, stuffed-to-capacity purse and two and half inch heels (I know I should know better), is bounding into daycare prepared to exchange very brief pleasantries with my son’s providers and snatch him up before running out the daycare door.  I enter his classroom and my plans are thwarted by my son elbow deep in finger pant, painting a picture of his recent favorite muse: his penis. 

He looks up at me smiling and runs over for his hug and kiss.  His teachers laugh as I kiss the top of his curly hair, narrowly avoiding yellow hand prints on my suit skirt and I direct him to the bathroom to wash his hands.  Accepting my late fate, I lower myself down to one of the kiddie chairs for a few deep breaths and wait for him to finish up.

He emerges, declares he is all clean and runs to give each of his teachers a big hug before we leave for the day. 

“Isaiah…” one of his teachers says as we head to the door.  He turns.

“Don’t you want to give Julie a hug?” 

A little dark haired girl turns around from a sea of blocks and raises her arms.  My two and a half year old runs into her waiting arms.  They exchange a very long embrace.

“Awww…” we all sing in unison.  I can’t even get mad as the clocks hits 5:15pm.  Then, just as we conclude our song, we watch as my son lowers his hand to Julie’s little waist and leans in for a kiss. 

The teachers and I gasp in unison and then end in an awkward laugh.

“Isaiah!” I exclaim, tugging his little hand.  He looks at me wide eyed and concerned.  I soften my gaze and remind him, “We ask for kisses and hugs, pickle.”  He nods. 

“I am not ready for this.” I joke with his teachers.  They laugh.

I am really not.

This past Saturday, it was asking a little girl named Gabby at the park if she wanted to meet his Grandma which led to an hour long courtship and ended in her kissing him on the cheek and wiping dirt off of him when he fell off the swing.  Last week, it was Madeline, a little girl at a daycare we visited.  They embraced for what seemed like a full minute before we left and my little man said, “I’ll miss you.”

Everywhere we go, my son finds a little girl to hug and attach to.  

And I know it is all my fault.

I am a romantic.

Yes, I said it.

I grew up memorizing the words to sappy movies like Dirty Dancing and dreaming to the beat of Boyz II Men and Babyface.  In college, my girlfriends and I would have movie nights that almost inevitably involved movies like Love Jones and Love and Basketball. 

You know.  Movies that ended in kisses and vows. Long before I knew love, I loved the idea of love: sharing a connection with someone no one else shared and building lives and dreams all based on an unexplainable chemistry and decision of commitment. 

Of course, what I grew to know of love grew me up a bit.  Sometimes you can love someone and they don’t love you back.  Sometimes you fall in love with someone who wants to love you but they just don’t know how.  Sometimes you can fall in love with someone and they can fall in love with you but you both know it just wouldn’t be right. And sometimes, all the stars align, you both commit to one another and life just gets in the way.

When I met my husband he was completely outside of my radar.  I was from New York.  He was from North Carolina.  I still wore Timberlands on winter days.  He went barefoot on summer ones.  I was used to guys who called me “Boo” and he said things like, “Sweetheart.”  When he asked me out for the first time, I was sure we would not have chemistry but he was a gentleman, he was charming and he left me glad I had went down a road I wouldn’t have otherwise. 

Us married gals know marriage is not easy so I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge that the seven years since have not been sunshine and light.  The adult, post-dirty dancing part of me wishes that someone would finally make a romantic movie that begins with a first kiss because the real love most certainly begins after you make it through that first rough patch.  The one where everything in you wants to give up but you fight anyway.

Nonetheless, love is in my air.  My adult, still-watch-dirty-dancing-when-it-comes-on-television side loves to see my son witness the love between my husband and me. 

Now, don’t call child services. 

What I mean is, I like that my son beams when he catches my husband and I in a kiss or embrace and it is almost inevitably followed by him saying, “I want to kiss, Mommy” or “I want to kiss, Daddy.”  We find it nothing short of delicious. 

But how do I begin to teach my almost three year old about the appropriateness of that affection?  How do I articulate that very important lesson that not everyone wants kisses and hugs?  How do I teach a two year old about the boundaries of personal space? More importantly, in an age where school officials are offering condoms to first graders and leading condom manufacturers are making extra small condoms for twelve year old boys, how do I begin to make him understand that there is a very fine line between what is cute and innocent and what is sexual and intimate?  I know my son’s kisses and hugs are innocent.  However, I also know that as a young black boy, who also happens to be very tall for his age, the time for the outside world to see it that way is very short lived.  So, what do you think Moms of Hue?  How do we teach our young children about the appropriateness of affection without upsetting their innocence and being the first to break their little hearts?

Tiara Faith McCray

Tiara Faith McCray

Tiara is native of New York City and reluctant resident of the DC Metro Area. She is a writer in her heart but a lawyer by profession. She is a wife and also a mom to two boys. She is a self proclaimed and self loving oddball. She is determined to find both spirituality and happiness and like any true totalitarian matriarch, impose both on her family. She is wise enough to know that this may not happen simultaneously.

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The fall of the gracious winner and the reflective loser

There is nothing that bothers me more than a parent who believes that their child can not engage in healthy competition for fear of losing. It’s sad really. Competition has become such a feared thing that parents will do whatever it takes to ensure that losing is a thing of the past.

Take, for example, the movement to reward every child with a trophy despite his or her actual level of skill/progress/contribution. As someone who played competitive sports for much of her childhood and well into her adult years, I find this to be rather appalling. When I was younger I played softball, volleyball, basketball, and I ran track. I also threw the shot put, participated in the long jump, the high jump, and in the triple jump. And while basketball volleyball and softball came somewhat naturally to me, distance running was not my forte, and I was below average in jumping. The truth is that I lost some of the events in which I competed. Yet, I succeeded in others and never once did I or my mother demand that I am rewarded when my skills were not up to par. And what is wrong with that? What does that teach? I grew up knowing that in order to be rewarded for anything in life, you had to work hard, you had to show progress, and that often times there would be people who were far better at things than I. That is called character. That is called reality.

Parents have decided that children are far too fragile to learn some of the most basic and necessary lessons in life. We have become a culture that celebrates mediocrity and provides children with a false sense of perfection. In essence, we are creating what is rapidly becoming our own downfall. We are no longer raising individuals who were strong in character and possess the strong work ethic that once made this nation great. We are raising children who were growing accustomed to everything being easy and to being rewarded for doing the minimal amount of work possible.

I have numerous trophies and medals that I won while participating in competitive sports. They are in my closet in a crate and serve as a reminder that if I work hard I can achieve great success. My daughter, who recently turned four, loves looking at them. One day she said to me, “Mommy, I want a trophy.” I responded as most mothers would have, by saying, “here, have one of mine.” Her response made me realize that my husband and I are doing a good job. She said, “No Mommy I want to win one of my own.”

This is the approach that I want to cultivate, and this is the attitude that I wish more parents would pass down to their own children. This approach, when combined with the understanding that winning isn’t everything, fosters a feeling of satisfaction. It motivates children to be gracious winners and reflective losers. When we teach children that hard work has its rewards and that no one wins all the time, we can encourage them to work hard to accomplish their goals. Helping children learn that they are better at some things than they are at others is a lesson that will give them confidence and strength to at least try.

Kristina Daniele

Kristina Daniele

Kristina, Founder and Oz of We of Hue is one of many doing it across hues-homeschooling, wifing, mothering, and business building. She is a web designer and social media consultant with a love of building communities on line. She looks forward to intelligent conversation that is eye-opening and statement-making.

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Sweet Tea Tuesday: Shinin’ Redux

It’s time to get our shine on again. Unfamiliar with the shine? The origins and rules for shinin’ appear at Execumama Online home of the project’s creator Akilah Richards.

This time around, it is a CONTEST, and I can guarantee everyone is a winner. After writing the post below last year, I knew I was a winner. I was carrying the afterglow of that shine with me everywhere. It was a much needed exercise in self-love and awareness. Are you ready to shine? I sure hope so, because I’ve been bestowed the honor of choosing the writer with the most briliant SHINE. And, I’ve kinda sorta been thinking ’bout shinin’ one mo’ again for fun, just ’cause it felt so good the first time around.

Without further ado, “See Me Shine” from August of 2009:

I love my name/s.

Tameka: teacher artist mother entreprenuer kitchen magician ad infinitum

Growing up, I wanted a more “conventional” name; one people pronounced correctly, one like the other kids at school, a name found on a gift shop mug. Now, I can think of no other me I’d like to be: Tameka!

-I unabashedly-albeit graciously, challenge the status quo.

Grown, ornery, hard-headed becomes free-thinking, assertive, fearless

-I choose love

I can’t even begin to touch upon the doors that opened for me when I opened myself to the understanding that love begets love. Love is my religion.

(Starts to feel the sting of “I” statements, but continues…)

-I get it

As an empath, HSP, and someone who lives with the often debilitating effects of depression, I see the world through a different lens. I appreciate the view from here. It allows me a special place in the hearts of the misunderstood; privy to the things they long to tell but dare to speak. I listen with my heart, we communicate through my writing. It’s a gift I feel privileged to possess and obliged to share.

-I am beautiful

“Oh no she didn’t”. Laughs. I have to put this out there because it’s the truth. (Perhaps I should have chosen brutal honesty?) Meh, too late now.

I am my mother’s nose; high, round behind, thick thighs and broad hips.
My father’s almond eyes, crooked teeth and full lips.
My Nana’s moles. My Grandma’s high cheekbones.
I am the rich brown of the sweetest tea.
Goddess. Lover. Wife. Mother.
Beautiful. Black. Woman.

Originally published on Tea & Honey Bread, August 2009

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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