Gratitude Friday: A Thank You.

On this much belated Gratitude Friday, I was inspired by the words of actress Gabourey Sidibe during the Gloria Awards (honoring Gloria Steinem), as tweeted by the awesome Awesomely Luvvie:

“I’m grateful to…my 5th grade class because if they hadn’t made me cry, I wouldn’t be able to cry on cue now.”

I was moved by that profound and powerful statement for various reasons. Mostly, however, what stood out for me was that she was able to look back at that moment in her adolescence and communicate both the pain of the past and the fact that it hadn’t wrecked her. And this made her grateful. But I wasn’t just moved by her words. Those words also incited a memory for me. An indelible, powerful memory of what my 6th, not 5th, grade class gave me one afternoon.

We were in the chorus room, sitting cross-legged on that nubby brown carpet as we waited for our chorus teacher to come back. The next thing I knew, I heard the following chant: “Fish lips, fish lips, look at those fish lips.” I looked up, wondering who the voice belonged to and what in the world they were talking about. There, laughing, was the boy who had bullied me since I joined this new school. And he was pointing at me. The other kids soon followed suit, repeating the sing-songy chant and pointing and laughing. Those who weren’t part of it simply looked away uncomfortably. I remember feeling confusion (I look like a fish?), pain, embarrassment, even laughing a little to lessen the blow. That didn’t work though–the chanting and laughter continued until our teacher returned to the classroom.

It’s amazing, the blueprints that are created in seconds, in tiny moments. That moment in time created quite a few. For one thing, an interesting habit reared its head as I got older: covering my mouth when I laughed. Later, it became disdain when I looked at myself, my lips, in the mirror. Later still, it transformed into wondering if people were looking at them when I spoke. It wasn’t until I reached 30 (we will discuss the wonder of 30 in another post) that I looked in the mirror one day and was fully, exhale-y, and absolutely satisfied with these lips, this face, and everything in between.

daily-gratitude

 

 

 

 

 

So, like Gabby, I’m grateful to my 6th grade class because:

  • I wouldn’t appreciate these lips that look like my grandmother’s and my father’s if you hadn’t put them on blast.
  • I wouldn’t decorate them in the rubiest of Ruby Woo lipstick by MAC if I hadn’t come to appreciate the fullness of the shape you felt the need to highlight.
  • I wouldn’t be as grateful for this soul-searching journey that I was forced to go on if you hadn’t forced me to take that ride in the first place on that painful afternoon.
  • I don’t blame my old bully or those other kids for what happened anymore. I don’t blame the ones who looked away in discomfort. From what I could tell through those words and other statements she made, Gabourey Sidibe has reached the peak of her self-acceptance journey. And she’s not the only one.

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Fake Limps and 5Ks.

So, quite randomly this morning, I made a mental note to do a search for 5Ks in the area and sign up for one as soon as possible. Moments later, I found myself marveling a bit. We’ve come a looong way, baby. Follow me, won’t you?5K

  1. This is the girl who chose to take zeroes for the day rather than dress up for gym class in high school.
  2. This is the girl who forged her mother’s signature (I wish I was kidding) to excuse her from gym class in high school.
  3. This is the girl who faked a limp in order to get out of participating in the mile run for gym class in high school. (And my gym teacher let me hold the stopwatch, too.)

 

This 5K will be my fourth one. I marvel. I really do. Obviously, back in the day, not being one of the fast or the coordinated meant I had no desire to do anything related to phys. ed. Add to the humilation of dressing out in the proximity of a personal bully who loved to highlight the many imperfections of my adolescent physique and there was no way I was going to voluntarily ever enjoy something like exercise. (The treadmill in my parents’ home was used to hang clothes. You get my drift.)

But we grow. Bullies go away, school ends, and doctors give you the side eye when they look at those adult lbs on your medical chart. As such, I began voluntarily exercising when I moved into my first apartment many moons ago, which had a gym on the bottom floor. The treadmill was my equipment of choice, and it still is. Nothing like walking and listening to music and sweating. Post high school horrors, I’ve always enjoyed walking, whether leisurely or for a 5K. The best part is that I move to the beat of my own drum, at my speed, and at my level.

No fake limps necessary.

walking3 walking2 walking1

The Thing about George Clooney.

Clooney and his boo, Amal. Photo courtesy of People magazine.
Clooney and his boo, Amal. Photo courtesy of People magazine.

You don’t want to hear about the other thing about George Clooney, which is my undying admirating for this generation’s Clark Gable and his suits and that salt-and-pepper hair. And I won’t do that to you. However, it’s the present thing about him that has captured my attention. Rumors abounded this weekend that Clooney had become engaged to his latest girlfriend, Amal Alamuddin. It’s news because Clooney was the perpetual bachelor; the Lake Como villa owning playboy who asserted over and over in various interviews that he had no interest in remarrying (he was briefly married in the late 80s). That playboy image was repeatedly emphasized by Clooney’s revolving door of interesting girlfriends: models, more models, cocktail waitresses. (If you care, the Huffington Post has a pictorial of all the girls he’s loved before.) So this news about the engagement has gotten most medial outlets into a right tizzy, and I get that. What I find interesting and ultimately stinkin’ awesome, though, is that Amal is nothing like the girls he’s dated in the past. She’s a lawyer, an Oxford grad, an activist, older than the ladies he’s used to…It’s a win for smart, older ladies everywhere.

Don’t get me wrong, please. I’m sure the ladies of the past that graced the halls of that droolworthy villa were smart, intelligent women. But Amal is rocking my world, ya’ll. She’s a brainiac and she’s in her mid-30s. And that makes me happy. I’ll elaborate.

This past weekend, some friends and I had a long, enlightening, and hilarious conversation about the sassy single life that most of us live. In between raucous laughter and quiet moments, some of us wondered why it seemed that the younger set (like, really young, at times) are entering into matrimony like gangbusters when the majority of us in my age group and older who have a desire for marriage are not. There weren’t many answers to that Big Question. Who really knows? And that was essentially how we concluded our discussion.

But the fact that Clooney, who I don’t know and will never meet (I mean, unless I happen to find him in Italy, completely by accident and not as a result of an exhaustive search or anything), in choosing to officially make it 4eva with this apparently cool lady, speaks volumes to me.  Our lives are diametrically opposed–we in Normalville, USA, do not live the lives of celebrities and Oxford attorneys. And I certainly don’t believe that Clooney will somehow set a precedent for all men. I just think it’s stinkin’ awesome, and puts an interesting spin on the conversation I had with my friends this past weekend.

Now…can you find villas on Google maps?

My 20.

Tina Fey 20

So AMEX has this new card geared toward the harried multi-taskers of the wold, aka, moms. I’m not a mom, and I dare not apply for an American Express card (I envision a decline letter coming back with 1,000 LOLs), but I love Tina’s list above of 20 aspects of her life/days as a mom. So here’s are 20 facts and tidbits about me, most of which are a bit more expansive than a typical day in my life. Because you were curious about yours truly, right? Riiiight?

What’s My 20?

  1. I love the number 12. My government name equals 12 letters and that makes me very happy. Don’t ask me why. It just seems so definite, 12. And I love that.
  2. When my sister and I came to this country, we inexplicably thought that African-Americans drank Coke and Caucasians drank Sprite. Imagine the shock when one of our play uncles offered us Sprite. (We drank it, though. And felt rebellious.)
  3. I wrote my first story when I was 12/13. It was about three girls taking a road trip. Because I’m slightly a hoarder, it might still be in my room. Oh, God.
  4. I’m not entirely sure I figured out how to tie my shoelaces.
  5. Or learned how to tell non-digital clock time.
  6. My favorite singer, of all time, of all time, is James Taylor. We will discuss my beloved in a future post.
  7. My first ride on an escalator, at JFK Airport, age 8, was filled with screams, tears, and my parents repeatedly telling me that I wouldn’t be sucked into the moving steps. I still give escalators the side eye. And hold on for dear life.
  8. I’m one of those look-at-the-moving-floors-in-an-elevator people.
  9. But I do enjoy people watching, on an extremely grand scale. Less so in enclosed spaces, though, like the elevator.
  10. Couples fascinate me. Whether happy or not or viciously whispering under their breaths to hide their arguing in public, I get a real creative boon from twosomes. Families, too. Really, the nuances of how people relate to each other is captivating.
  11. I don’t know how to swim, roller skate, ice skate, or do anything that isn’t on good old reliable solid ground.
  12. I once met Michael Buble and nearly fell to my death in his tour bus. He saved me from falling. Good times.
  13. I think African food, arguably, is the best food on planet Earth. Yes, it is.
  14. Somehow, being born the year Grease was released and a year after the release of Saturday Night Fever makes me an eternal fan of John Travolta, the Bee Gees, and disco music.
  15. Speaking of music, I thoroughly love music much older than me. Aside from being a square peg, I’ve been called an old soul more than once.
  16. Need general trivia? Silly, useless facts? Right here.
  17. My parents gifted me with my faith, an enduring love of the arts, storytelling, and comic books. Best gifts ever.
  18. Speaking of family, I have the most hilarious family of all time. We’re missing one, my dear father, but are hopeful for the future.
  19. Best advice from Mom: Always keep your dignity. Whatever happens in life, I try to hold on to that.
  20. This was kinda hard!

 

The End. What’s your 20?

We Need to Talk About This.

okyerewa.com

So it’s no surprise that I’m quietly freaking out about this. You know I love her. Here’s why I’m happy with People’s choice this year:

1. Does my Lupita (because she’s mine, really) need a magazine to declare her beautiful? No, she doesn’t. But this is icing on the cake. Such sweet icing.

2. We’ve seen Halle, Beyoncé, etc., on People’s cover. This time I’m looking at a gorgeous African woman who’s wildly different from the “status quo” of beauty in our society at large. I feel like making her fufu and soup to celebrate. I.love.it.

3. Another highlight in her terrific year. It Girls come and go, but I genuinely can’t wait to see what happens for her next. Yes, I’m a fangirl and I don’t care.

4. Ah, look at that smile!

Excuse me while I pump a few fists in the air, won’t you?

Kate Spade and Woman Stuff. (And My Mother.)

This is the Holly Street Rubie Bag, by Kate Spade.

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I want it so bad I can taste the blue on my tongue.

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For real.

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If you click on the link for the bag, you’ll see the price tag. As much as I love handbags and purchase them both cheaply and at will, the idea of paying that amount for a bag seems illegal somehow. Illegal and wrong. I said as much to my mother.

It doesn’t matter. You’re a young woman. Stop buying cheap and make the investment.

I tend to laugh off similar comments from my mom. She who wants her four children to pool their monies and gift her with a Mercedes Benz because, well, that’s what children do for their mothers who love pretty cars. (Seriously, we would, if our pooled monies would actually amount to something.) She who conversely chided me for spending money to do my hair at a particularly broke time and lectured me about “responsibilities.” (It didn’t make sense to explain how a good hair day makes one’s day livable, sometimes. She disagrees!) The lady is a mosaic of emotions and points of view, no? So when she made the remark about the investment, I just chuckled and reiterated that offering my credit card for a bag with that tag would cause me to lose about a week’s worth of sleep.

But I kept looking at that bag. Here, look at it again. Look.

spade4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My mother feels that earrings, bags, and, well, Mercedes Benzes are always worth the money. (But, weirdly, not hair? Ah, well.) Because those things are part of womanhood, at least the first two, and they shouldn’t be acquired cheaply. I, on the other hand, have never looked at those things beyond the role they play to accessorize me. So if I acquire such things at a cheap price, big deal, right? Mom even tells me that when I was young and she would decorate me with earrings and bracelets and necklaces for special occasions, by the end of the day, those things would be pulled off and discarded, never to be found again. Maybe, even back then, I looked at those things as merely functional and replaceable.

I recognize the value of an investment. Yet I recognize the cardiac arrest that will surely come if I buy that bag. (Outlet prices still won’t be that forgiving.) I also recognize that This Square Peg needs to give up her cheap ways, at least a few of them.

So what shall I do?

Should I buy the bag??

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Unmarried African Woman. (shudder)

Some of you know this woman. She’s your sister, your friend, your fellow cubicle dweller who insists on playing 70s soft rock on her Pandora station, your daughter, your cousin. Some of you don’t believe that the fact that she’s an Unmarried African Woman (UAM) needs to be capitalized, or even an issue. And if that’s you, then you’re surely not African.

(I’m aware that other cultures may experience similar discussions and silly opinions about their unmarrieds and singletons, but my vantage point is mostly African, so I’ll be commenting on my personal experience)

The truth is, this particular community doesn’t understand mid-30s and singleness. It’s not in the DNA, ya’ll. It is not. Marriage and family are the very center of lives and culture. And this isn’t a criticism, by any means. I’ve come to a place where I can look at everything with humorized (not a word) irritation. Sometimes, it’s just pure humor and downright laughter. Anyway. This is generally what I hear as a UAM. Get ready…

  1. Is Your Daughter Waiting for a White Man? This is an interesting question, huh? My mother was asked this question by a family acquaintance about yours truly. (The question in its entirety was, “Is your daughter waiting for a white man? Is that why she’s not married yet?”) Stunned by his question, she very succinctly informed him that her daughter was waiting for the right individual for her, and she wasn’t about to just marry anyone, white, black, or green. Go Mama, huh? When she’s not suggesting I marry someone who just needs to be “polished” (more on that later), she’s definitely on Team Square Peg. Anyway, I suppose he took in the fact that I’m your atypical African woman (read: Americanized, which is a completely subjective term), raised in the suburbs and speaking with her accentless Valley Girl twang, and assumed that I’m waiting for my white knight. Who knows? Who cares?
  2. I know the PERFECT Man for You. No, you don’t. You don’t know me. We’ve spoken two times. Literally. Let that one die.
  3. He Just Needs a Little Polishing. I get that one quite a bit. The future man in question apparently just needs a little varnish provided by me and my lurve, and he should be fine. It doesn’t matter that he’s typically seen talking to himself in a corner somewhere, or laughing at a private joke that only he and the invisible person next to him have shared with each other. Hey, I get that in a relationship, both will be enhancing one another here and there. I embrace it. But that’s a lot of polishing, ya’ll. He (they) needs medication. Not me and my varnish.
  4. So, Is Attraction Important to You? Nope. As a UAM, I definitely want to meet a man who looks like the creature from the black lagoon. No big deal. After all, I’m only getting older, right? And who wants to be vain and superficial? Bring it him on. (But don’t, ok? Don’t do any of that.)
  5. Perhaps Your Standards Are too High. Soooo, we have standards for the car we want to buy, for the pizza we want to eat. And don’t tell me you don’t get hot if they add anchovies when you asked them not to. This is forever. I have standards. Hopefully, so does he.
  6. Honorable Mentions. Don’t marry a short man (Mama), and don’t marry a man with a big head (also Mama). Those are my personal favorites. The reasoning behind these caveats are usually followed by curious African anecdotes that I never fully understand. But I love hearing them.

I’ve no doubt that some of these interesting comments cross cultural lines, but there’s just something about a crotchety African woman telling you that you need to stop being so picky. Kinda feels like home.

Can’t imagine what I’ll hear when I become a MAW (Married African Woman). Sheesh.

Spring!

Happy First Day of Spring, all.

I always think of this painting when Spring comes. Sandro Botticelli, Primavera (Or Allegory of Spring)
I always think of this painting when Spring comes. Sandro Botticelli, Primavera (Or Allegory of Spring)

Be comforted that from today until the beginning of summer, there will either be lovely, light days to delight your eyes in your morning…

sigh...
sigh…

…Or several feet of snow in your driveway to assault those poor eyes in the morning. Sorry. Did I burst your bubble? Forgive me. The effects of the weirdest, unrelenting winter of all time–especially in the East Coast–has done this to me. Has me bursting bubbles and such. Let’s get back to the sweet stuff.

Le Printemps, Claude Monet
Le Printemps, Claude Monet

Wherever you live, enjoy the days to come.

wadsworth