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This Square Peg.

Happily Not Fitting In Since 1978.

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💯

If you’ve been here for a while or recently stopped by to take a look at my little corner of the Internet, you know that I am Ghana-born, partially Ghana-raised, birthed by a Ghanaian woman and man, product of Ghanaian ancestry. Honestly, I’ve never wondered if there was anything else in my blood. I just never have. But one sees ads for Ancestry dot com and one gets curious. Even larger: I never met my paternal or maternal grandfather. Would a genetic test perhaps reveal a few things about them? Would genetics speak of them in some way?

I decided to find out. There was a sale on Ancestry so I took advantage of it and signed up to receive the at-home DNA kit to send back to them for testing. When the kit arrived, I was disappointed to learn that no, this wasn’t a Law-and-Order type of DNA test with a Q-tipped cheek swab. No, I would have to–ugh–spit into a vial. Side note: I believe, with all my heart, that spitting is ugh. So, yeah, the kit sat there for a while, ignored by me. Eventually, however, I got the nerve to re-open the kit and just do it, already. Conveniently enough, Ancestry sends you return packaging so I put everything together and sent it off.

The results came back to me a few weeks ago. Shall we discuss?

Pic

  1. Cote D’Ivoire, Benin, and Togo, oh my. Like I said earlier, This Square Peg never doubted the presence of Ghana running through her veins. But I’ll be for real: seeing Cote D’Ivoire and Benin
    yesss
    Girl, please. She knew she was 100% African.

    and Togo…WOW. WOW. So very cool and and intriguing all at the same time.

  2. 100 percent of something. A friend of mine remarked that she’s never seen results where someone is 100 percent of something. “You are 100 percent African. That’s really amazing.” Hearing that gave me life. Because it is amazing. I never needed confirmation of my genetic makeup, but seeing “100% Africa” above was just the coolest thing.
  3. French. Is it any wonder, dear reader, that I’ve been attracted to everything French since I was 12 years old? For reasons I’ve never quite understood? Could the presence of Cote D’Ivoire and Benin and Togo, all officially French-speaking countries, have anything to do with this longstanding amour? Can genetics determine devotion?
  4. Mama. When I informed my mom about the results of the genetic test, she responded with the following: “We don’t know anyone from there.” I laughed and replied that this wasn’t a list of people we knew, but rather what my ethnic heritage is.  She was silent for a bit, seeming to marvel over this information. I wondered if she was thinking about which one of our ancestors perhaps emigrated into Ghana
    Africa Map
    Photo courtesy of Africa Guide.

    from the three places, primarily Cote D’Ivoire. After all, if you glance at the Western side of my continent, Ghana is flanked on both sides by the other three countries. Anyway, I then mentioned to my mom that this could explain my abiding love for the French language (even though, real talk, I I speak Frenglish), a statement that she quickly agreed could be true.

  5. In the End…Other than wondering about genetics and DNA and the past and my forebears and on and on, life went on after learning my results. My curiosity was assuaged. I didn’t gain a wealth of understanding about the stories of the men and women I didn’t have the opportunity to meet. Nevertheless, it was just plain cool to add this new piece of information to the mosaic of me.

Have you ever done a test like this?

Feel like talking about it?

Can you hear the comments area calling?

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Oprah.

What an introduction. Let’s get right to it: when Her Excellency was was still on the air with her daily talk show, I won tickets to be part of her audience.

oprah1

Back in 2011, I remember going on the official website for the show and noticing one of the upcoming episodes. The theme of the impending show was going to be all about best friends. (Title: An Oprah & Gayle Kind of Friendship) Made sense, given the longtime friendship between Madame O and her bestie, Gayle King. The requirement to be part of the audience was to write and send in an essay about your best friend and why he/she was wonderful. That was a no-brainer. I’ve discussed my bestie on TSP more than once. She.Is.Everything. And so I got to writing. Looking back, I submitted the essay with only a small twinge of excitement, being that 1) I was probably 1 of a million people doing the same thing, and 2) I didn’t want that level of disappointment if I didn’t get chosen.

Then I received an email on March 23, 2011. Yes, I searched my inbox for that date. And yes, I’m giddy that the email still exists. Bottom line, the main idea of the email: my bestie and I were invited to join the audience during a taping of the themed episode.

I reacted a bit like this:

oprah2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So at this point, dear reader, my bestie didn’t know I had done any of this. I kept it all to myself in case we didn’t get chosen. Welp, that didn’t happen. After receiving that email, I called her and engaged in the following conversation:

Me: Hey, are you free on April 11?
Her: Let me check…yes, I’m free. What’s up?
Me: We’re flying to Chicago that day to be part of the audience of the Oprah show.
Her: *crickets*
Me: Are you there?
Her (whispers): This better not be a prank.
Me: It’s not! I wrote an essay and they picked it and it was about you and me and our friendship and we’re going to see Oprahhhhhhhhhh!

Her reactions, from 1-3:

oprah3
1
oprah4
2
oprah5
3

 

 

 

 

 

Needless to say, by the time we got to three, we were both primal screaming on the phone. Flight plans to Chicago were made; outfits were discussed (we had been asked by Queen O’s team to wear colorful clothes that would show well on TV); mild disappointment was expressed because a giant rule was that no pictures were allowed inside the Harpo studios; and finally, more primal screams were shared. You guys, it was one of the best experiences of this life. And you know how Empress Oprah’s audience would go mad? I admired her, yes, but I just couldn’t understand the mania oprah6these women showed on national TV. Well, I can easily say that on that morning in April, as Oprah was introduced and walked out and waved at us and smiled: I. Get. It. I truly do.

Her presence: dynamic. Her personality: open and charming. Her overall nature: amazing. In the minutes between her walking out and sitting down before the cameras turned on, there was no change. She was the same onscreen and off-screen. She was also just fun. During commercial breaks, she joked and laughed and told us about her painful high heels…it was surreal. My bestie and I spent the entire time just like holding each other in disbelief and Oprah-generated joy. And yeah, we got some gifts, too. And food. It was incredible. I’ll say it again, and in French: incroyable.

But the best part of that whole thrilling experience, dear reader? It involved a years-long, amazing friendship with one amazing lady, that being my bestie, and it involved another love of my life: my writing. My bestie kept saying the following throughout the day. “You are a writer. It was your words that got us here. You are a writer.” It was definitely a boost in confidence with the mighty pen. Nevertheless, the topic at hand, why this woman was such an indescribable presence in my life, made it easy. I didn’t hesitate. The benefits of a worthy subject.

Got any thrilling moments with your bestie that you’d like to share with me? Don’t fret because Oprah isn’t involved in any of them. The comments await you below…

smile. (😒)

Smile!

I’ve heard it most of my life. And if you have a resting fierce face like me, you’ve heard it, too. Strangers, random folks–they all seem to take pleasure in viewing our stony features and commanding us to break into grins. Like me, do you want to push said people over to the ground when they issue this command?

The first time I heard it was from my mother. I was in my mid-twenties and she asked me if I walk around with “that face” when I’m in public. She followed that question with another query about why I look so “fierce.” I remember kind of backing away slowly, not wanting to elaborate as to why I didn’t see the need to walk around smiling all the time. But she’s my mother. She can speak her peace and even if I didn’t/don’t heartily agree, I surely wasn’t going to push her over. (She’s really strong, y’all.) But random folks? Nah, man. You don’t get to issue me commands. You don’t get to direct what I do with my features. I once had a homeless guy command me, as I walked down the sidewalk, to smile. As much as I wanted to push him over, he had other problems he needed to attend to.

What incites folks to issue this command? (Oh, and no, it’s not a suggestion. It’s a

toon
Smile!

command. If it was a suggestion, I would hear something like, “You have such a lovely smile. Why don’t you show it more?” I would still side eye them, because, again, it’s my face and I don’t need no stinking suggestions about it but the need to push said speaker over would be slightly diminished.) Why is it so important that I bare my teeth to the world? I mean, it’s awesome to seem approachable, and perhaps a smile communicates that, but the assumption that I’m not because I largely walk around in my daily life without one is a bit ridiculous to me. Or how about I choose what expressions I want on my face? How about that?

A few weeks ago, gymnast and all around amazing woman Simone Biles performed a routine for Dancing with the Stars. During the judging, she was asked by one of the hosts, Tom Bergeron, why she wasn’t smiling when the judges were praising her performance. Simone’s response:

simone

Because can she live? Can she choose when or whether to smile, Tom Bergeron? (I’ll never forget when one of my uncles, while we watched Tom host some other show, remarked that he looked like he had bad breath. This comment exemplifies why my African people will always get the win, the zinger, all of it.) Anyway, social media praised her retort into infinity. Women praised her into infinity.

Because most women hear this smile command, typically from men.

Yeah. You agree with me.

And we could talk for hours about how that gets under a woman’s skin, being told by a male stranger to do something with her features that he has no right to tell her to do, but dear lady, we don’t have a million hours. You agree with me. I’ll leave it there. For now.

violaSo, no, I won’t smile on command, and unless you gave birth to me, you don’t get to tell me or my face what to do.

Happy Wednesday, y’all…smh…

 

 

big bag, small bag.

Once upon a time, our fair chocolate princess was at work and in the middle of typing when a sharp pain shot though her wrist. Of course, she gazed at her wrist as if the body part could communicate why it did this to her. Thankfully, there was no answer (talking body parts may be cute in animated films, but in real life? Nah), and she assumed that it would go away. No such thing. The sharp pain became unrelenting. She could barely type, hold things with her left hand, etc. At first, she diagnosed herself, because she’s done this all her life, often running to her parents’ basement to consult various medical journals whenever she experienced pain and/or discomfort, which resulted in giving herself an assortment of ailments. (“Stop doing that,” her mother has demanded many, many times in the past and last week in the not too distant past.) Her final analysis was carpal tunnel syndrome. And yet there was something intense about this pain, perhaps bigger than carpal tunnel. Reluctantly, she realized that it was time to consult a real physician. The medical journals and all those years of watching ER, St. Elsewhere, and other medical shows just wouldn’t suffice this time.

Since there was a clinic right across the street that accepted those employed at her former company, our chocolate princess trudged over one afternoon, her wrist in agony. When the doctor finally came in to see her, he checked everything, asked a variety of questions, etc. He then gazed at her handbag sitting nearby in a chair. “Do you mind if I pick this up?” he asked. Curious but ultimately knowing what he was about to tell her, she nodded. He picked it up. “What do you have in here?” he then asked. An umbrella, an iPad, my wallet, normal things, she responded. The doctor nodded again. “Do you need all those things?” Affronted, our princess explained that as a commuter who lived in Somewheres, VA and worked in the DC area, it was important to bring things to be prepared since her vehicle was miles and miles away. An umbrella for rain. The iPad for metro reading. Other things. And only a large bag would fit. “All true, but your handbag weighs about the size of a small toddler. That’s why your wrist is in distress. Your handbag is too heavy.”

A small toddler?

But, our princess thought to herself, she’d always had big bags. High school, college: what minuscule bag would fit her life??

The doctor went on to say: “If you need to bring all those things, perhaps consider a backpack. You can use both straps for both your shoulders and take the pressure off your left arm.”

A backpack? Was she 11? Was she in elementary school? Was she still walking to the bus in the mornings?

Obviously the doctor saw the horrified (mixed with a bit of snobbery) expression on our princess’s face. “Or you can decrease the items in the bag. But you’re doing damage to your tendons if keep holding a bag that weighs this much.” She muttered her thanks and assured him that she would figure it out. He told her to pop some pain medication if the pain continued. Eventually, the pain dissipated and disappeared and our princess resumed her life.

But she didn’t change her bag.

The End

So I had an epiphany the other day, dear reader. After years of rubbing my shoulder after wearing my bag, or picking up my bag and wincing in pain, or warning the lady at the nail shop to be careful when she picks up my bag in order to protect my wet nails, and so, so on, I realized that it’s finally time to quit playing games with my limbs. Stubbornly refusing to listen to the doctor’s recommendations was one thing (and not a great thing). But now living in an area where I drive to work and no longer need to be loaded down with an entire aisle of a CVS because I can leave things in my car is entirely another. It’s time, y’all. This Square Peg needs to buy a smaller purse.

I used to wonder how women ran their lives with smaller purses. Like, how did they exist? Where did they put their wallets in said smaller bag? What about a certain time of the month and hiding certain items? (Speaking of that, I think the trauma of a boy in my 9th grade History class who snatched my bag one day and peeked in to see a row of pink lady time-of-the-month articles did more damage than I care to psychoanalyze.) Anyway, again: how did these ladies survive without a giant bag on their shoulders?

I’ll provide the answers when I buy my small bag. It’ll be a shock to the system, for sure. A bag on my shoulder is like warm tea on a chilly day. It’s like cool lemonade for a dry, summer-inflicted throat. It’s comforting. But my car is a few feet away in the parking lot. If I need anything, I can go grab it. Enough, I say. We must do right by my shoulders, wrists, that poor doctor who tried to save me from the small toddler…

Here are some super cute smaller bags that stylistically call out to me:

Lovely. Now we need to head to the store. I wonder how many years that will take?

So tell me: what kind of purse/handbag do you use? Small? Large? Massive? Little? Share your adjectives in the comments with me, please.

fruit salad.

Can I tell you how much I miss my tropical paradise/coconut/fruit salad?

natural
facts.

I will.

December 2016 was the last time I:

  1. saw my curls
  2. got the chance to detangle as I go run my fingers through my kinks
  3. engaged in hours-long twisting sessions while catching a movie on the Netflix
  4.  “tamed” these edges before pushing the fro into a puff
  5. massaged my scalp freely
  6. just loved on it.

Protective styles are great. I’ve expressed this before. They give me a break from doing too much of #6 above, they help me to get to work on time (because I’m not spending all morning undoing the results of #3), and they’re just pretty and creatively done. Will I continue to protective style? For sure. Will I continue to complain that I miss my hair? For sure.

In December, I had Senegalese twists. I followed that up with regular box braids. After that came crochet braids. Other than brief intervals when the  styles were removed so the scalp could breathe, I really haven’t experienced my hair for six months. But lest you believe some fairy tale grandmother forced me to put in these protective styles, it was my choice to keep the strands tucked in until May. I needed to leave it be. There was also some damage to my ends after coloring my hair last year (we’re not going to talk about that right now; I’m still in my feelings), so it was just necessary to leave it ‘lone for a while. This time, however, I made sure to moisturize and oil and do all the things you need to do to actually protect the hair while it’s in a protective style.

This weekend, my stylist will take out my crochets. My natural hair will then receive a much needed deep conditioning and a trim of ends that have likely declared mutiny since the last time I trimmed them.

Will I weep when I touch my scalp again?

Maybe.

Happy Thursday and onwards and upwards…and frowards.

it’s morning…

Curious about how This Square Peg energizes for the day? *Or whether she actually gets energized for the day? Read about my morning routine below…wakeup

  1. My alarm is set for 6AM. I turn it off and then sleep until 630AM. It is what it is.
  2. After the usual morning things, I hop into a scalding hot shower (I don’t know about you, but there’s something about almost third-degree burn water temperature that just wakes me up) and, based of having shared a bathroom with all of my siblings for several years, am out of there less than 6 minutes later.
  3. Applying lotion and/or oil is the highlight after a scalding hot shower. It fills the room with lovely scents and aromas.
  4. I quickly brush my teeth and then wash my face. Because I intentionally woke up 30 minutes late and am now rushing.
  5. Nine times out of ten, I plan my outfits the night before. So after the skincare/beauty regiment ends, I head to the closet and quickly get dressed.
  6. If I don’t have a protective style, I quickly take out my twists and/or puff the hair. (Sometimes I do this while “sitting”, if you get my drift, particularly when I have twists in.) If I do have a protective style (yes, please, because it takes forever to take out twists and style), I just fluff and it’s done.
  7. I head to the kitchen and make a sandwich for lunch. Like a 10 year-old, I prefer peanut butter on wheat bread, no jelly.
  8. I’m out the door after determining, via my heavily used weather app, if I need a scarf or light coat or heavy coat for the bipolar Texas weather.
  9. Drive to work.
  10. If I feel like it, I quickly put on makeup at stoplights. So if you’re behind me, I apologize, but this Ruby Woo needs to go on these lips and I didn’t have time to do that at home.

As you can see, quick, easy, we’re done. What’s your morning routine? I’d like details. The comment box can handle it.

*I don’t get energized until 9pm. So there you go.

P.S.: are you wondering if I eat breakfast? I do. TSP’s belly won’t stand for all of that. I tend to grab breakfast at my job or roll by Starbucks on the way into the office, if I have time…which I most likely don’t. And if you’re also wondering if I actually get into the office on time? I actually do. The wonders of only working 10 minutes from home.

Discoveries. (Or, Eureka, We Keep Finding Her.)

We never stop growing and learning about ourselves, do we? Below are some of the things I’ve realized about myself lately, because I’m all about epiphanies, epiphanies, dive-into-self-discoveryepiphanies…anyway, read on, s’il vous plait.

  1. Discovery: I receive a special kind of joy from unsubscribing to the abundance of emails that clog my various inboxes. There’s nothing like cutting the cord. And I accept that this provides a level of contentment that I can’t fully describe.
  2. Discovery: shyness never really goes away. But it becomes manageable. I have tons of friends who don’t believe that I was or am a shy person, and I attribute all of that to good shyness management; i.e., ignoring that 9 year-old who’d prefer that I retreat and hide and keep quiet. She’s cute but bossy. (Side note: I really appreciate the few people in my life who keenly see shades of that 9 year-old in my actions and completely give me room to navigate it all. It’s nice to be known.)
  3. Discovery: I give people very few chances to edit themselves. If you’re rude or mean or dismissive from jump, I rarely have the desire to want to see you change your ways. Because, deep down, I don’t believe you want to. People have the ability to be better and I should want them to want to, riiiiiight? Working on this one.
  4. Discovery: if I smile at you and you don’t smile back, you’ve ruined that aspect of my day. In other words, I’ve put a lot of importance of non-verbal communication lately, more than I have in the past. But perhaps this goes hand in hand with #3. Maybe you’re having a bad day. Maybe you’re constipated. I don’t know. Working on it. (I think it’s because if I’ve made the effort to be polite despite the insanity of my day, you should too? But when was human nature ever so black and white?)
  5. Discovery: I compete with other drivers. When you’re in the next lane and you rev up and increase your speed, I do the same thing. And I like to win. Don’t tell Mom.
  6. Discovery: also related to 3&4. Despite my penchant for quietly psychoanalyzing people, psychoanalysis isn’t necessarily insight. And as much as I dig deep in my own psyche and examine my choices and actions and why I do them, I honestly don’t give that time to other people. Insight and the ability to really see into a situation and the people involved is a gift. One I don’t have. And real talk: I think this also limits my fiction and the ability to really see into my characters.
  7. Discovery: I’m not as cynical or pessimistic as I like to believe. I am the child of parents who believed in and functioned on high levels of optimism. I think I’ve been volleying between those two opposing forces my whole life: cushioning myself in pessimism but nursing, deep down, the hope that I’ll be proven wrong.
  8. Discovery: During difficult times, writing has always been a crutch and/or a distraction for me. Don’t get me wrong. I fully believe that I was born to be a writer. But my inability to be creative lately makes me wonder if looking at writing beyond what it is–an art form–is why I can’t seem to get into it lately. Am I placing on it requirements that it’s not equipped to handle? As in: making me feel better?

Thanks for visiting epiphany central. What things have you learned about yourself lately?

rant? what rant?

You guys. When ladies change their hair, here’s the thing: their faces stay the same.

I can’t count how many times it’s happened to me. It even happened today. Meeting people that I’ve met before and noting their obvious confusion based on a lazy lack of recognition. But we know each other, sir/madam. We laughed. We hung out. We work together. Do these braids/crochets/twists really make it hard for you to determine my identity? 

Apparently.

So here’s a PSA: some of us, especially my fellow melanin ladies, will change our hair a lot. Because variety is the spice of life and of hair, and we have that ability. Make it a goal, right now, to preserve our faces in your mind’s eye. Because I won’t re-introduce myself. 

Got it? Good.

*carefully steps off soap box because she’s afraid of heights*


(Side eye â˜đŸŸbrought to you by rant above)

Dear Leonard Sotten:

My, Leonard. You seemed like such a wonderful, patient, kind man, and these are pretty important things if we’re going to be married. And based on last night’s sweet dream, we were. I’d love to know how we met or all the fun things we did during our courtship, or even how you proposed–I hope it was a surprise proposal, Leonard–but I’m also happy that the dream just kind of started full swing and showed me these lovely images of our life together. After all, I woke up knowing  your full name. I probably even know your social security number. And yet, Leonard, we’ve neither met in my actual, waking life, nor do I know anyone named Leonard.

So where did you come from, my love? Oh, I don’t doubt that my subconscious questionmarkmolded you out of all the qualities I hope to someday meet in Mr. Square Peg. But the dream was so specific. I saw us together, always together: conversing, walking, gazing at one another. I even noticed your patient regard while I gabbed with friends at our house of worship seconds before start time. And when I finally rushed to my seat and sat down, Leonard, you smiled at me and took my hand into yours.

I’ll confess: it was bittersweet to wake and realize that I wasn’t Mrs. Sotten. I laid in my bed this morning and couldn’t shake visions of your face from my mind. I even wished you were real. Because, Leonard, I don’t know anyone like you in this actual, waking life. My experiences with your gender have forced me to believe that the majority of you must be suffering from some kind of illness that renders you unable to be normal and do normal things. Is that too vague, my dear? It’s meant to be. I certainly don’t want to be as specific as my dream was. If I get too specific about your brethren, Leonard, this letter will take an interesting turn. And I’d rather just think of you and how nice it was to share a life with such a kind man. And boy, did that dream communicate your kind nature. I even felt that kindness. You know that tiny part of the mind where you know it’s only a dream and that what you’re experiencing/seeing isn’t real? Almost as if you’re watching a movie? I felt your kindness there, in that strange corner of sleep lucidity, and I longed for it.

Years and years ago, Leonard, I heard a quote from one of my favorite characters from one of my favorite TV shows.  “A dream is an answer to a question we haven’t learned how to ask,” as spoken by Dana Scully from The X-Files. I remember being stunned by those words. Obviously they have stayed with me. Just profound and rife with meaning. So what answer did you provide, Leonard? And what was the question?

I didn’t want to leave you in that dream, and I don’t want to now. I wrote your name down. Maybe we will meet someday.

Yours,

TSP

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