April 16, 2014

Confessions of a Social Networker

Lately I have been feeling some kind of way about social networking. 

I was taking what I affectionately refer to as an “internet vacation” at work yesterday.  You know, where you start by Googling restaurant reviews for the weekend and you end up looking up things like, “What ever happened to Roooobeerttt on The Cosby Show?” (Wasn’t he cute?)  Anyway, I came across an article in The San Francisco Chronicle speculating that Facebook may have reached its 500 million member mark. 

Makes sense.

Facebook has connected me with everyone from long lost cousins to people I shared class pictures with in the first grade.  I can count the people that I know who aren’t on Facebook with one hand and most are either under the age of ten or over the age of seventy.  It is hard to believe that in just 2004 what so many of us can no longer live without did not even exist.

With the alleged 500 million members floating around its virtual world, Facebook offers us daily access to the witnesses to our lives.  Whereas our parents’ generation had faded pictures and fuzzy memories to rely on to communicate stories of their childhood and successes, we have witnesses that we can call on… daily… to reminisce with, remember with… People that serve as living breathing evidence that we existed and continue to exist.

If you take the time to think about it, it’s a pretty powerful concept.

But with all of these advantages, the lawyer in me can’t help but wonder about the disadvantages.  If life is a house, Facebook is like a bay window without shades.  It creates local celebrities among us offering free tickets to our edited reality show.  But like every reality show, I wonder how much is illusion and how much is real life. And in turn, how much of the illusion becomes a part of your real life?

I consider myself a fairly happy person.  I love my family and they love me.  I am content with the direction my career is going in.  While some days are sunnier than others, my good days far outnumber my bad ones.  When I am sitting at my computer, updating a status, uploading a picture or adding words and phrases to my profile, I realize that as social networkers, we can paint our lives however we may want.  Yet still, I often find myself perusing the pages of my Facebook “friends”, fighting my inner green eyed monster to keep up.  One women on my friends list posted pictures of her child smiling ecstatically with DJ Lance Rock from a recent Yo Gabba Gabba Live concert.  While I was happy for her and her clearly happy child, after seeing the photos, I manically went on a search to find the pre-sale code to purchase tickets for my son for the show in New York this fall.  Before I knew it, I had three tickets, was negative $300 bucks and I was calling my husband telling him about our plans.  He was okay with it (because he knows a happy wife makes a happy life) but I missed out on engaging him in the process and including him in the excitement of planning our son’s first concert. 

Similarly, the other day my son was serenading my husband and I with his toy microphone and I spent half the song searching from my Blackberry to snap pictures and videos of him and the other half sending the pictures to Facebook and family members.  I even urged him to sing the song again so I could capture it from the beginning.  By the time it was over, I realized I had practically missed out on the entire moment trying to record it and share it.  Trying to remanufacture a period in my life just to say – “Look how great we are!”  I am angry at myself for not just sitting down and enjoying the moment.  Capturing that beautiful moment where my son was singing and my husband was smiling in my mind and finding contentment in the experience.  Why couldn’t I just kick it old school and call the grandparents and tell them about it the next day?

When did the “Share” button become such an integral part of my human experience?

Recently, a couple close to me has been going through a divorce.  A knock-down, drag-out, messy divorce.  However, one glance at their respective Facebook pages and you would assume they are still living in marital bliss.  Despite their fighting, they still manage to create happy status updates, pose for a picture with the kids or take a picture of their beautiful home on a sunny day.  Despite their mutual unhappiness, they still find the need to manufacture their lives for public consumption.  Why? For what?

This is not to say that I am going to give up all social networking.  The fact that I am a blogger is not lost on me.  I just find it ironic that this mechanism whose goal was to make us connected can leave us feeling so disconnected.  I can only conclude that I may need to start consciously limiting its exposure into my life – if for nothing else, but to be more present.

What about you? How do you balance this new age of social networking into the realities of your everyday life?

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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Sweet Tea Tuesdays: The Vanity Frienemy

Last week, as we lauded and lavished in our goddess-like girths and warrior-like fortitude, another voice emerged. I’m “Vain”, she says with equal parts timidity and assertion. “I swear vanity is like a drug that’s very hard to get away from! I’ve always been that way, though. Well maybe not always, but at least since I was in Jr. High or High school. When boys start noticing you…”So coping with the fact that my body may change drastically after having a child is harder [sic] then I want to admit! My boobs have always been my pride and joy!”

Vanity as a drug? That’s a novel comparison. I was moved by her honesty, and intrigued by this drug concept. I like to think of myself as “exceptionally sexy between the ears”. I’m compassionate, intelligent, creative-okay I’ll stop now. And, now that I think about it along these lines, there is an adrenaline rush that’s felt when my words come together just so, or when the manifestations of the creations of my mind’s eye are tangibly translated. Perhaps, I too am vain, even if I don’t flaunt it on the dance floor.

I think I like this drug analogy, it jibes with my vanity frienemy concept-and am I ever grateful for the emergence of this clever portmanteau; frienemy: a friend disguised as an enemy or vice versa. Cool isn’t it?

At some point in our lives, this period of “proud peacocking” is needed for survival of the species, but when is it safe to let go? At what point do we cross over from healthy self-esteem and self-assuredness to the point of “inflated pride”. I’d say, as with any substance – or in the case of vanity, lack thereof- dependency-once it has come to dominate your existence, you may have crossed frienemy lines.

We live in a society with some very strident-unattainable, for most- beauty standards. As a woman of color I’m already disqualified by default. (More on that in next week’s “Booty Pop Culture“) Maybe this is why I opted against mainstream acceptance and devised my own criteria-or so I thought, until I ran across a myriad of other, smart, curvy, rubinesque, zaftig, taller than, shorter than women with an agenda greater than the sum of their measurements. Some very attractive women, both externally and especially internally ; these women roll with the punches and pull no punches when it comes to defending and embracing their rolls.

You know what the Romans say, “It’s all fun and games until someone loses elasticity”. Oh wait, that might have been me. What are your thoughts on the Vanity Frienemy? Is vanity your drug of choice?

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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Boy… Oh, Boy: Raising a Black Man

So, a couple of weeks ago, I found out that the little half-pint taking up residence in my body is… drum roll, please… another beautiful baby boy.  This will be my second child and second boy.  I would be lying if I said I didn’t have some moments envisioning what it would be like to actually shop in the pink section of the kid’s clothing store but as the only girl with two older brothers and countless male friends growing up… being a Mom to another boy just feels right.

Upon finding out I was having another boy, family, friends and strangers alike all had something to offer.  Mostly words of encouragement.  Mothers of teen girls tended to tell me that I should quit while I was ahead, because boys make much better teenagers.  One mother of an older son who had just gotten married warned me cautiously, “Have a girl, have her for life; have a boy, have him until he finds a wife.”

Deep, I know.  Still not quite sure what to do with that information.

While I am sure, one day, I may feel a tinge of loss when my son goes off to be someone’s husband or partner, “losing him to a wife” is really the least of my concerns.  What am I actually concerned about?

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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.

More Posts - Website

Sweet Tea Tuesdays: Body of Love

Last week, I posed the following question to my faithful denizens of Facebook: What is your current relationship with your body like? Are you and your body soulmates? Are you an almost perfect fit? At odds? Splitsville?

Upon reading the responses and having a few offline discussions, I came to realize what we have in common is a shared agreement on the impact of pregnancy and childbirth or lack thereof on our bodies. What previously escaped me, is the different ways we each view and embrace that impact.

An anonymous friend who struggles with infertility stands in the sidelines jeering the “privileged” complainants, as we go on about our saggy, post-lactation boobs, Caesarean scars and pouches. Briana, a new mother works to wrap her head around the newly discovered limitations of a malformed uterus and cervix -currently housed in a previously favorable pre-Caesarean dwelling. As she wraps her arms around her healthy, albeit pre-term bundle of love, Briana tells me she looks forward to, “the time where I can feel at one with my body and at least feel that I’m able to work towards my goal body, versus being a passenger inside my body”. Admittedly, I felt a certain sting both of remembrance and regret. My biggest complaint today is that I’m no longer able to wrap my growing arse in the same size jeans I once did, and each pregnancy has brought about an increase in an already exceptional -for a 5’3 woman- shoe size; no doubt my concerns pale in comparison. Ali, awesome woman and mother to an even more awesome Ramona, wrote of her struggles with BDD, yet blissfully conceded, “I feel more beautiful now, post C-section paunch, cellulite, droopy and wrinkled than I did at age 23, size 0, perky as all hell. I believe that beauty is felt from our emotional state”.

This all made me think about the question I asked more deeply. With any healthy relationship, one must first come to terms with the basic premise that there is and forever will be some semblance of expectation which dictates your overall level of happiness or unhappiness depending on which way you view the glass. That being said, let me modify my inquiry to include, In what ways has/does your body exceed(ed) your expectations? In what ways has it failed to meet them. How will you adapt/adjust your perspective?

I’ll go first:

After 28 hours of pretty intense labor with our first child, I developed a sense of trust and respect for my body that, at age eighteen- never crossed my mind. Until then, my body was purely for aesthetics, when I wasn’t admiring it, or being admired, it was just sorta there. Then, my first experience with childbirth happened, and did it ever happen. To clarify, I didn’t feel like I was in control, instead the doctors and nurses and unbearable pain ran the show amidst my mostly futile but somewhat helpful attempts to breathe through it. Fast forward eight years later, the pregnancy and birth of our second child was decidedly different. I had a plan and a purpose; I had an expectation. I knew my body, I acknowledged her and used her, and the oft-mistakenly-dreaded gravity to my advantage. I gleaned a new appreciation for the fortitude of these 42″ hips that didn’t waiver as I squatted through moderate pain whilst managing an exceptional load. I felt accomplished. And, like my good friend Amy added when speaking of her current relationship with her own body, “I don’t care about cellulite or stretch marks because those things are a sign of being a woman–growth spurts, childbirth, all of it. My body is a warm, soft place to land, to hug and to love”. I wholeheartedly agree with her there, there are many tales of love and victory in these jeans! Not that many, geez…I could’ve worded that a little differently, eh?

As we continue to explore the relationships we share with our physical selves in the next two parts of this series, I’d love to hear more stories of how you’ve accepted your body and Self, of how you’ve adapted and even accomplished positive results just by being you and using what you’ve got!

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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Why the hell are you so mad?

For the most part, I consider myself a fairly even-tempered person.  Unless it involves my family, very few people and very few things can genuinely bother me.  That is why it surprises those around me how genuinely upset I get when I hear the bitter and self-serving ramblings of Michael Baisden while flipping through the radio channels during my evening commute.

For those of you unfamiliar with him, Michael Baisden is a nationally syndicated radio show host who broadcasts a daily talk show about issues relevant to the African American community.  While the topics range, he typically focuses on issues of love, marriage and fidelity.  Now, I know what you may be thinking, Why do you listen? Fair enough. Initially, I was a listener.  In fact, I admired the expansive national audience and opportunity it offered people to discuss issues relevant to the black community.  I thought, what a rewarding position to be in?  Baisden had the opportunity to be a neutral arbiter to a nationwide town hall meeting every afternoon.  This admiration soon dissipated after I began to realize that the vehicle was more of a venue to push his own beliefs and agenda on an unwitting audience.  While I give him credit for powerful topics like issues of domestic violence, sexual abuse and his new mentoring initiative, his past topics have also included, “Why do black women have such a hard time finding a man?” and most recently, “Are married women secretly jealous of their single, childless friends?”  The latter is what greeted me on a recent evening commute.

“Are married woman secretly jealous of their single, childless friends?”

Now, in the legal world, we call this sort of question a leading question.  It is when the question is suggestive of the answer.  If a lawyer were to ask such a question, she wants the jury to think, “married women ARE secretly jealous of their single, childless friends” and she wants her witness to say “Why, yes” even if the thought had never entered the witnesses’ mind.  That is why leading questionings are not allowed on direct examination (when the lawyer questions her own witness).  It would be entirely too easy for a lawyer to get her witness to say exactly what she wanted her to say by simply asking suggestive questions. Well, after the topic was announced, short sound bites of listeners’ phone calls were played. In short, they were all variations of single childless women berating the decision to become committed and/or have children… something about freedom and independence.  Thereafter, Michael Baisden fueled the fire by pitting those who are married with children against those who are neither.

“Married women with kids are trapped and unhappy,” one side yelled.  “Single women are bitter and lonely,” yelled the other.

It all culminated in him promoting open marriages and spewing his concept of a marriage expiration date, which allows people to “opt out” of the marriage on a given date if they are no longer happy.  I should note, Michael Baisden is divorced and has acknowledged that fidelity was an issue in his relationship.

Objection.  Michael Baisden is leading, your honor.

Overruled, Counselor.  Turn the channel.

Is this healthy debate or just good old fashion divisiveness?  Most likely fueling the Michael Baisden audience are the recent raging statistics about black women and marriage.  Brian Alexander, MSNBC contributor, wrote an article in April 2009, discussing how Michelle Obama may be an archetypal African American female success story because she has a successful career, strong marriage and happy children.   According to the article, 38% of highly-educated black women between the ages of 20-45 have never been married.  The statistics are less daunting for black men because they are more likely to marry outside of their race.  A similar CNN article titled, “Black and single: Is marriage really for white people?” found that 45% of all black women have never been married compared with 23% of white women.  Likewise, I had lunch a few weeks ago with some co-workers and one of them mentioned a statistic that women lose 90% of their eggs by the age of 30.  This statistic comes from a study from Edinburgh University in Scotland that found women do in fact lose 90% of their eggs by the time they are 30 years old and only have about 3% remaining by the time they turn 40 years old.  The childless, unmarried women at the table looked mortified and I, 28 years old and five months pregnant, felt very uncomfortable with nothing to say but some nonsensical talk about feeling fat.  All of these scare statistics have just widened the divide.

Now, I am no card-carrying, club-organizing, spinster-picketing, proponent of marriage and babies.  I met my spouse in law school where I was looking for an education not love.  It all happened organically and our marriage and the children that followed were choices that made sense for us.  I have one fabulous friend that has spent her entire late twenties exploring the continent of Africa and pursuing advanced degrees in International Studies.  She is clear that marriage and/or children are not for her until she is at least in her forties.  She is gorgeous and happy and it is clear to me that she will have no problem having either one if and when she decides it is time.  I just do not understand why the issue has pitted one side against the other.  I do not understand why married people with children must be miserable for single, childless people to be happy and why single people must be lonely and unhappy for married people to find joy.  Life is incredibly personal.  There is no collective happiness.  Either you are happy or you are not and only you know which components you need to change in order to find your “happy”.    In the slightly altered words of one of my favorite, single rockers, I have one question for you, Mr. Baisden, “if it makes you happy, why the hell are you so mad?”

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 African-American Beauty Conundrum

by Adiaha Ruane

Of late I have been really worried about raising two beautiful girls who are on the opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of African-American beauty. I worry that my oldest lighter skinned daughter will naturally be accepted as more beautiful than her darker younger sister. It sounds so silly to even think such a thing, I know. But when I look around at the the reality of the huge schism present in the minds of African-Americans and what we consider beautiful, I want to cry.

Long flowing hair that blows in the wind does not come naturally to me or most African-American women I know (there are many amongst us who are bi-racial and may have different hair textures though). Traditionally we are blessed with thick, curly and soft hair that when cared for gently and kindly can be transformed into an infinite number of creative and impressively beautiful styles. However, some of us perceive our hair to be unruly, course, kinky, hard to comb, nappy, bad and generally ugly. We African-American women are so married to the notion of our hair not being good enough in its natural state that we spend billions (about $9 billion according to Chris Rock’s “Good Hair”) each year to relax it  and cover it with wigs and weaves. How does this affect our view of ourselves and even more important how does it affect our children’s view of themselves?

There is a lack of self esteem in our community directly tied to our African beauty and it is disturbing. Our collective self perception as African-American people needs some attention. We have to be honest with ourselves about how we really feel about ourselves overall. We must also be really careful not to mistake the popular image of ourselves for who we really are. The European model of beauty does not embrace us. Yet we insist on embracing it, a standard which leaves us bereft and lacking any sense of real attractiveness. Can we ever really attain the European standard of beauty? Should we want to? When are we going to leave the dust from slavery behind and adopt a more self affirming attitude toward ourselves. If not for ourselves, for our children, especially our little girls who are drowning in a sea of messages which tell them they are not enough.

The challenge of addressing our self perception is great and many have already started to heed the call. I encourage women of color to embrace their own culture’s beauty standards and not adopt the European standard. It can lead only to self-hatred.

Links for further consideration:

Lori Tharps – Multicultural Maven and Author of Hair Story

Tyra’s Show on Hair It is 5 parts and while I am not a huge fan, she does a great job of addressing the issue

Afroniquely You Blog all about your Natural hair

Beads Braids and Beyond Blog features African/American and Bi-Racial hair care tips and styles.

Curly Nikki Blog about Curly hair, Transitioning and Natural hair care

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