Keep Your Voice Down When Making Declarations of Love: Random Memory #1

Welcome to a new feature on This Square Peg, where I share the random memories that come to me during my morning commute to work! You’re welcome.

There’s always a catalyst to the memories. This particular morning, as I stepped off the train, I saw a young woman who reminded me of a girl that was in my Introduction to Shakespeare class in college. Immediately, I was

you ain't never lied, Wills.
you ain’t never lied, Wills.

transported back: back to those heady days when I was a happy English major and a Math class fugitive, and specifically, when I was head over heels in love with my Shakespeare professor. Regarding the luurrve, can you blame me? Prof E was a true lover of the Bard (as was I, and still am), handsome, funny, and wore glasses. I swooned from day one.

So the Prof would hold these readings once a week, where members of the class would voluntarily meet and read a play–whether Shakespeare or Christopher Marlowe or anyone in between, it was a fun way to get to know each other and discuss literary thoughts and conventions outside of class. Needless to say, I signed up as soon as possible. The night of the reading I joined, we were dismissed for a short break. After a pal and I grabbed something to munch on, we were heading back to the reading room. This was when it all happened, when I suddenly got all up in my feels over my professor. I’ll never forget the following conversation.

Me: I think I love him.
Pal: Who?
Me: Professor E, of course. I’m in love with him.
Pal: Oh, Lord.
Me: He’s amazing. He’s so smart. And funny. And cool. And awesome.
Pal: Ok, [Government Name], chill out, though. Keep your voice down.
Me: I can’t! I want to shout it from the rooftops. I love him!
Pal: Seriously, stop talking right now. Don’t say another word. Don’t.
Me (suddenly freezing and turning toward her): He’s behind us, isn’t he?
Pal: Yeah.

Like clockwork, Prof E walked from around us. Of course, to add to the sweet misery of it all, he turned around, grinned at me, and said he’d see us in the room. What happened next:

Me: I’m going to kill myself.
Pal: You’re not going to kill yourself.
Me: Yes, I am. We’re on the 3rd floor, right? I’ll jump right here, from this balcony.
Pal: Get away from that balcony. Look, it’s no big deal. So he knows you love him. He’s probably flattered.
Me: I want to die.
Pal: Later. We need to get back.

(Can I tell you how cool my old friend was back then? She was the senior to my junior, listened to most of my melodrama with the same dry, unruffled, and hilarious reaction, and let me escape the craziness of college days in her dorm room. The best.)

Anyway, as you can imagine, going back to that room took all the strength I could muster. But Prof E never made it awkward. After that day, we continued to have our interesting discussions, in and out of class, as if nothing had happened, as if I hadn’t declared my love for him on the third floor of the Johnson Center. Sigh. I’ll never forget your rimless glasses, Prof E.

This was brought to you by a random memory.

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undies. (not much else to say here)

TMI alert. You’ve been warned.

I’m comfortable in bloomers. Granny undies, big old pantaloons, you get my drift. I understand how troubling this may sound, largely because I’m nowhere near the age where a package of gigantic Hanes underwear should be so appealing. But they are the enormous sirens to my wide-eyed Ulysses, and I always heed the call. I’ll leave you to your psychoanalysis about my devotion, but I did tell you that I was a Square Peg, right?

shockedcat
Captures my mother’s shocked reaction perfectly. Except she’s not a cat. She’s cute, though.

Of course, this post has everything to do with my mother. Because I live with her and I inhabit the bedroom I had when I was 12, she has no qualms about sometimes opening my bedroom door all willy nilly. After all, there was no such thing as “privacy” when I was 12, so why abide by such a thing now? (Needless to say, working on flying the coop once again; love the lady who birthed me more than life itself, but there is major arrested development action going on at home, despite the hilarity that typically ensues.) As a result, when she opened the door one morning as I was getting ready for work–in other words, barely clothed–I wasn’t too surprised. What occurred next: she remarked that I needed to buy new undies. Specifically, she gasped in horror at my grannies, nearly collapsed, and remarked that there was no excuse in the world for what I was wearing. As usual, I laughed it off and commented that I cared more about pretty blouses than the grannies I chose to wear. She tsked tsked, shook her head, and quickly retreated back to her bedroom, whispering all kinds of things about her crazy daughter under her breath.

She’s right though, ya’ll. She’s right. I’ve been lectured by Mom about “being a lady” my whole life, but I didn’t feel like this applied to my fat undies. Well, I had my epiphany yesterday when I was doing my laundry. Those things are the size of Versailles. But without the luxury and gold rooms. They’re big, boring, and shapeless. So, as much as I enjoy marching to the beat of my own square pegs, I reluctantly admit that coming into my own with my personal style should also apply to my pantaloons. Largely because they will fall down on me one day. (If you haven’t guessed it already, I’m definitely buying sizes bigger than what I should be wearing.) Anyway, time to go shopping. Woo hoo?

TMI over. You can breathe now.

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.

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?

Short Story Prompt – 04/21/14

Short Story Prompt: Write a story incorporating the first day of school, a love note, and a recipe with a significant mistake. Thanks, Laur!

 

The Firefighter

 

The morning was stressful. The kids were all starting their respective first days of school, which meant varying degrees of mania. Alexandra was a brand new 7th grader and, naturally, obsessed with the “coolness” of her outfit and hair; Will was in 4th grade and currently in the “I don’t want to bathe” phase; and the baby, Rose, was no longer a baby and almost hyperactively excited about the first day of kindergarten. Nevertheless, Rebecca Morris was good at putting out fires. She was a pro. With ease and deep breaths, she was able to calm them down, get her son in the bathtub (not without a few bribes), and put each child on the bus before collapsing on the couch when it was all over.

Normally, post-collapse, she would get herself ready for the second part of the day, which involved getting the house in some sort of working order and other housework. However, with a smile on her face, she reminded herself that it was her first day of school, as well. Dragging herself off the couch, she ran up the stairs to get herself ready.

 

Perhaps, like Alexandra, she, too, was needlessly obsessed with the “coolness” of her outfit and hair. Having changed her clothes for the fifth time, she pulled them off and sat cross-legged on the ground, her head in her hands. She was an adult, for heaven’s sake. What was wrong with her? Or, did it have anything to do with the clothes?

Did she really believe this, going to school, would work? She was 38 years old, a mother of three, a wife—could years of putting out fires compare to what she was about to embark upon? When would she have time to help with homework and do her own? With shaky fingers, she reached for the cell phone on her dresser and dialed his office. “I don’t think I can do this,” she said when he picked up.

“Don’t psych yourself out,” Nathan replied, his warm voice instantly blanketing her senses. This is what it typically did, that voice. It was a salve.

“Too late,” she muttered, peering at herself in the mirror adjacent to her. “I’m currently sitting on the carpet, half-naked, and my hair looks like I fried it with the curling iron. This is ridiculous.”

“Babe, the interns in my office can barely spell their first names. I heard one of them ask whether Canada is considered a U.S. state since it’s close to Alaska.”

“Stop it,” she said, bubbling over with laughter.

“I’m serious. These are Harvard sophomores. You, by far, are the most intelligent person I know and you can do this.”

Rebecca sighed. “You’re sure?”

“100 percent sure. And I’m sorry I couldn’t help with the kids this morning.”

“Don’t apologize. You had to be at work at, what, dawn? You’ll get to be with them tomorrow morning.” She continued to gaze at herself in the mirror. Fried hair and half-naked, yes, but this was also the woman who introduced three human beings into the world. That counted for something. It counted for a lot, she reasoned. In that moment, a Master’s degree in Education seemed to pale in comparison.

“Up, up, up,” Nathan said gently.

She smiled and rose from the carpet. Moments later, she pulled out a pair of slacks and a blouse from her closet.

“Have a great day, love. And I left you something in the oven.”

“An apple pie for my professor? Actually, I have four classes today, so four apple pies?”

Nathan laughed. “No pies. I’ll grab Rose at 12 and bring her to the office. And we’ll be home before Alex and Will come in.”

“All right, dear. Thank you. I’ll call you later.”

“Please do.”

After ending the call, she finished getting dressed and pulled her hair into a loose ponytail. With a final glance in the mirror, she went downstairs and entered the kitchen.

Rebecca shook her head and chuckled as she pulled out a plastic bowl of fudge brownies from the oven. She deduced that he made them last night after she had fallen asleep; she had a vague memory of opening her eyes and wondering where he was. A note was taped to the cover of the bowl. Her stomach fluttering with anticipation, she opened it.

 

Remember last year when Alex ran out of glue for her school project? And you poured some flour in a pan, turned on the stove, and made her some homemade glue? I’ll never forget the look on her face when she came to me, her eyes wide and her mouth open, and said, “Daddy, Mom made glue. She can do everything.” So, Rebecca Ann Morris, you can do everything. Anything and everything. From glue to a Master’s degree to everything in between, I have no doubt that you can accomplish this goal of eventually becoming a teacher. Happy First Day of School, my love. I made these all by myself. Aren’t you proud?

 

            P.S. – I may have confused a teaspoon of salt with a tablespoon. It was 4AM. Eat with caution. I love you.

 

Despite her attempts to keep them at bay, tears budded in Rebecca’s eyes as she opened the plastic cover and pulled out a brownie. The sharp burst of salt that permeated her taste buds at first bite didn’t matter; she ate the brownie and licked a few vestiges of fudge from her finger when she was finished. After wrapping the rest of the brownies in foil and placing them in her bag, she turned and headed for the door.