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This Square Peg.

Happily Not Fitting In Since 1978.

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Africa

Blogvember #15: Your Square Peg.

Had no clue what to talk about today. My equilibrium is off and I want to nap. So here’s a photo of me at 8 years old, sitting for a passport photo, giving you frosty face/don’t come at me/who do you think you are?/just try me. An expression that has served me well through the years.

Happy Tuesday.

things i currently need #9: décor dreams. (Blogvember #8)

Thought I’d share some of my needs when it comes to decorating my new apartment, which has become quite comfortable but still lacks some of the niceties and touches that I think would make it feel more like home. To that end, below are some of ideas I’ve pinned on my “mon espace” (my space) board on Pinterest. 


This lovely loo gives me life. 


My kingdom for a canopy bed!


Don’t you love it? Nothing like a bedside table. Those three books on the bottom are a sweet idea, but I foresee about 100 books stacked in that space for me. Kidding. 110.


There’s something about vintagey, French rustic-y dressers that drive me wonderfully mad. 


Another bedroom idea. I love everything about this room, including that large print on the wall. Are those scones on the tray? They look like scones. I digress. 


The living room is the centerpiece of the a home, in my opinion. I want a place that’s both cozy and cool, both modern and magnificent. Out of the three, the last pin is my favorite. And can we say #chandeliergoals?

Lastly, I’m a huge lover of natural hair and African-inspired artwork and want several pieces in my home. Here are a few of my favorite “Fro Art” pins. 


Anywho, a few ideas for me to work on down the road. And unlike most of the things on my recipes board, I’d like to make these décor dreams a reality. 

What’s your decorating style?

Throwback Thursday: The Scowler.

SquarePeg1

Meet your Square Peg, a.k.a., me.

I found this photo in my mom’s “secret” stash of photos one evening last week. I should tell you that my mother’s things–her clothes, perfume, shoes, etc.,–have long fascinated me, which means that since I was little girl, sneaking into her room to see what I could find and gaze at lovingly remains a pastime. Don’t worry: I leave most things undisturbed. Except the clothes. Anyway, I love that she keeps hidden photos and mementos that we don’t have access to. When I found this, I snapped a quick photo and placed it back into its hiding place.

This was taken in August 1983 in Accra, Ghana. I was 4 years old. I’m 100% sure my Dad was the photog, being that he loved taking photos of his children and family, even when we were sullen teens and refused to smile.

My birthplace and my home.

That Mustang, which was my mother’s. (Yep, Mama Square Peg rocked a Mustang!)

Those fat braids. (This was obviously was my go-to style.)

That dress.

Those shoes.

That face.

Oh, that face. Most photos from back, back, back in the day rarely found me smiling. I was a serious kid. I discovered those teeth a bit later, as you can also see from that ruffled, picture day photo. Other ones are of me coolly staring into the camera, as if we’re moments from battle. Ah, memories.

Happy Throwback Thursday.

The Seamstress.

I’m spoiled rotten. I am. You see, whenever I see photos of lovely dresses and skirts and outfits, particularly with African fashion, I just head over to my mom’s room, bat my medium-sized eyelashes (why do boys get long eyelashes? Can someone explain this to me?), and sweetly ask if she can recreate the look. After a few days filled with fittings that Mom does after I’ve eaten (“Ma, can’t we do these before I’ve eaten an entire piece of bread?”) and her threatening to hit me over the head if I don’t stand still, straighten my posture, and stick out my derriere, I find a lovely outfit waiting for me. It’s pretty amazing, no? Of course, after several years of this (even volunteering, at one point, to make me three dresses back-to-back for a special event), my mother basically put on a moratorium on all things me and declared that she was taking a break from making my clothes. I really was ok with this. Spoiled rotten doesn’t mean blindness: making clothes is hard work! Especially if you’re dealing with a bread-eating brat like me. I put a moratorium on my requests, as well. Fast forward, though, to a month ago when she bought some lovely African fabric pieces and offered to make me something. I casually agreed, stopping myself from jumping with joy. Eventually, I saw an outfit on Pinterest that struck my fancy and showed it to her. She nodded sagely and said it could be done. Even with a life and a full-time job, it only took her a few days to finish it. Again, because she’s amazing.

Here’s the outfit I saw on Pinterest:

PinterestDress

If you know me, you know about my love affair with peplum-inspired outfits. (See here and here.) So it’s no surprise that I wanted something akin to this lovely ensemble. We chose the fabric and Mom did her thing, completing it this past Saturday. Needless to say, it was beautiful. It also fit me like a dream, despite my post-bread fittings. I wore it proudly to my house of worship yesterday on Sunday and took all the photos I could, some at Mom’s request so she could show me off to her other seamstress friends. (Ha!) See a few below.

AfricanDress4

AfricanDress2
If you look to the left of me, you’ll see The Seamstress in the background.

AfricanDress1

Right?? Don’t you love it? I wanted to wear it all day and to bed. One of my absolute favorites that she’s ever made me. (I’ll post a gallery of all the ensembles she’s made me one of these days.) Here’s a full-length shot of the outfit.

AfricanDress3

A dear friend decided to photobomb my impromptu photo shoot with her adorable twin boys, which was awesome. Anywho, since yesterday was chilly, I paired the outfit with some fishnet tights and my dependable booties.

Overall and as usual, Mom did a fantastic job. Also per usual, the outfit ignited a storm of friends asking me if she could lend them her services. When I related their comments and requests to her, she merely laughed.That’s the thing with my Mom. She’s so modest about her skills that she thinks people are just being nice when they compliment her abilities. My sister and I are currently working our gifts of persuasion to try and convince her to monetize this gift. I’ll let you know if we’re successful.

So, yeah, it’s nice living with a seamstress. More than nice, actually. But The Seamstress wants to teach me how to sew. Somehow I need to persuade that thought right out of her mind…

She Twirls.

  
15 seconds of Queen Lupita twirling during her InStyle magazine shoot, as posted by her highness on her Instagram page. Take in all that African Girl Wonder. Breathe it in. And then find an empty office somewhere and do your own Friday twirl. Slow motion would even be better.

Bon weekend, dear readers. 

[Pardon the Interruption]…

…But I’d like to deviate from the daily Parisian round-up and share my new poem with you. Enjoy.

Birthright

Before I could even learn to appreciate you, I was desperate to shrug you off, this mantle that clung to the nuances of my dark skin like birthplaces and legacies.

You were the mirror I was ready to turn away from, the reminder that I was nothing like them; not mysterious and joyous, but something to point at and destroy.

And what of it?

Merely the source of special names and special people;

merely the home of my creators;

merely a rich, colorful center.

Before I could even learn to appreciate you, they informed me that I was simply a location hoarder, not real like them, just the holder of an address that was not worthy of me.

You were the mirror I intended to claim, the reminder that blood and culture can be whatever I want it to be; not a clingy shroud of shame, but something to be proud of and accept.

And what of it?

Merely the source of special names and special people;

merely the home of my creators;

merely a rich, colorful center.

Birth and death, accents and colors, time and memory: you are mine and mine alone.

Let them cajole and caw.

I bear it well and I bear it unaffected.

Like the solid stance of a landmass, a continent,

you and I cannot be moved.

Several Things African Mothers are Not Here For.*

(*Or, rather specifically, my African mother)

Discussing anything having to do with shaving or other such topics with your adolescent, hirsute daughter, leading her to make the type of mistakes and gaffes that defy description.

The idea that Idris Elba possesses any kind of good looks and responding to statements of that vein with comments such as, “there are about 12 men walking around the market in Accra right now who look better than him.” (Respectful side eye ensues.)

Mom3
The woman herself. I should add that I love her to pieces.

Magazine covers that proclaim someone to be the Most Beautiful… or the The Sexiest…because she will never, ever agree with that mumbo jumbo.

Complaints about being hungry, because “there’s rice in the kitchen.” Because whether breakfast, lunch, or dinner, rice will fix everything.

The knowledge that her daughter will watch movies she’s seen many times before or listen to the same songs over and over again. And over again.

The possibility that her daughter may marry a man with a large head.

Leaving the house to see a movie without a 100% guarantee that the ending will be happy. And since you can’t know that, she’s not going.

Speaking of leaving the house, doing anything that requires dressing up and leaving the house unless it’s worth it. So this means trips to the theater to see a show. And that’s it.

You, when you forget yourself and somehow believe that being in your mid 30s gives you the laughable right to express every silly thought that enters your head. Please have several seats, you.

The idea that the African dresses she sews for her daughter are too tight. (“Quiet. And stick your butt out.”)

Any kind of behavior that’s the opposite of ladylike, gentleman-like, or human being-like.

Parenting without large doses of cleverness, dignity, strength, tough love, cuddly love (within reason; let’s not get crazy), faith, and a dedication to her children and family.

If you don’t have an African mother, please feel free to borrow mine. But I’ll need her back, ok?

difficult names.

When I was a teenager, I lied about my name. True story. (Oh, irony.) My old friends once asked me what my middle initial, “O”, stood for. I didn’t tell them the truth. I didn’t want anyone to know my very African middle name. I had visions of them balking and laughing and eyes widening at the mixture of consonants and vowels. I didn’t want that. The mocking and bullying because of my looks and being from another country in my early adolescence had done their damage–I didn’t want anyone to know a thing about my African birth/heritage and name. Since I was in a different school system now, different from the earlier grades, I could lie like a rug and basically create a new identity. And that’s what I did.

New middle name: Olivia
New birthplace: San Francisco, CA

Regarding San Fran, I took the fact that my mom, sister, and me visited the city when I was about 4 years old and ran with it. Anyway, my false identity worked for a bit. I allowed that my parents were Ghanaian but I maintained that I wasn’t. I wanted them to be convinced that I was thoroughly American, almost in a rabid attempt to destroy that little girl that walked into her new school and was gawked at when the other kids learned that she was from a whole other country. And then it happened. An application for something I filled out and happened to leave on my desk in French class. One of my old pals/classmates glanced at it. I remember him asking, pretty loudly, at that, what happened to my middle name. Isn’t your middle name Olivia? he asked. Everyone else came over to peer at it and saw the “k” and the “y” and registered various looks of surprise. Wishing for the ground to open up and swallow me didn’t work. So I blamed it on my little brother. “Oh, I think my brother was doodling on the application and decided to play a joke on me.” Everyone laughed; they were already pretty familiar with the antics of my 6 year-old brother anyway, so the lie was accepted. They moved on. I, however, felt the lie in the pit of my stomach. (Side note: it’s amazing how certain moments in life direct us in the future. Notably, in my short fiction, I write a lot about people fighting particular truths in their life and the repercussions that come. Art really imitates life, huh?) I’d like to say that it all ended there; feeling sick over the lie inspired me to change and just tell the truth about who I was. Uh, no. I was 16. This was high school. It didn’t end there. I even told my counselor, who would be announcing my name at graduation, to merely say the initial and not the name. Her “but it’s beautiful” fell on deaf ears.

Alas, it wasn’t college that I started questioning myself. Why I was going through all these hoops to hide myself? Why was I condemning my heritage when people around me vocalized their wish to identify with an actual culture? (Honestly, I consider my time in college as four years of straight, unrelenting epiphanies about myself.)

My middle name came from a wonderful woman who was like a second mother to my dear father. I was named after her. It’s the name of this here blog (the address above). When people ask how to pronounce it, I say it slowly, just for the sake of hearing my name repeated back to me. But really, nothing compares to hearing my middle name spoken from my own lips and falling in love with that sound over and over again. I only wish I had fallen in love sooner.

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Umbrellas.

Unlike Southern California, it really doesn’t rain in West Africa. With the exception of the Harmattan season, where I have sweet memories of my mom gently rubbing lip balm across my lips to protect against the dry, windy weather outside, nothing really disrupted the hot, sunny days back home. Imagine the interesting reaction me and my sister had when we witnessed actual seasons upon moving to States. Months after we arrived, we saw our first snowfall. There’s a picture somewhere of the three of us (me, sis, and little bro) outside our first apartment, bound in tight, wool coats and knee deep in snow. Anyway, all that said, snow wasn’t rain.

Oh, rain. Like this lady, I don’t care for it. Not only because it’s wet and messy and sad and wet, but because every rainfall reminds me of my issues with the umbrella. I recall my bestie watching me struggle to close an umbrella while trying to get into her car one afternoon–without getting wet–and, after finally getting in, hearing her say, “Aw, you don’t know how to use an umbrella, do you?” I know how. I just don’t do it gracefully. I fight it. I grapple with it. I get wet. Can you blame me? I had to get used to a brand new object! Come on.

This morning, as I prepared to head outside, I almost shook my fists at the heavens. Rain. Which meant the umbrella.

Care to read up about that pesky item you carry in your purse (or murse)? Here you go.

Umbrellas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Umbrellas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir

 

 

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