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This Square Peg.

Happily Not Fitting In Since 1978.

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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 ☝🏾brought 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

nope. can’t do it.

When I was a senior in high school, I did something that defied all the parameters of shy girl status: I auditioned for a musical in my high school.

*cue shock*

Yes, your Square Peg, who enjoyed life behind the shadows, who always volunteered to be the narrator (and when she wrote her own stuff made herself the narrator, thank you very much), decided very much on an adolescent whim that she would audition for the spring musical that her high school was putting on, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the ForumLots of innuendo, lots of farce. I knew nothing about the musical prior to auditioning. There was no Wikipedia back then. Anyway, I loved the title, I loved musicals, I loved theater, I loved my school’s drama teacher (who was also my beloved Film Studies teacher when I was a sophomore and introduced me to the wonder of Citizen Kane, among other things), and I was high on this adolescent whim. I knew I could sing. So why not?

How to Audition for a Musical (Or How Not to, Depending on your Perspective)

  1. If you’re 17 (or 35 or 59 or whatever) and a veteran of several chorus classes, it would be nice to know how to read music. Because guess what? I didn’t know how to read music. (Still don’t.) When I was handed the music for the songs I would be singing that afternoon, Comedy Tonight and Lovely, I might as well have been handed stacks of hieroglyphics. And I probably had a better chance of deciphering those than the music I was given…
  2. …but because I was learn music by ear, I waited until dead last night to audition for each song. This gave me time to listen carefully to the notes, the melody, the arrangement, and allowed me to actually stand on stage and sing. Not too shabby, either.
  3. It might be a good idea to remember that even though you’re one of dozens that are auditioning, you can’t go up on stage with those people. You actually have to stand at the front of the stage and sing. Alone. And yet, moments before cardiac arrest took over as I approached the stage…
  4. …I found a way to position myself by the piano and not really at the front of the stage and I focused on my drama teacher, who was awesome and encouraging and likely CPR-certified in case I did keel over from the fright and butterflies.

I got through it, you guys. And I had fun.

But remember when I said I knew nothing about the musical? Well, although I didn’t score the lead roles of Philia or Pseudolus (and this was really no surprise; other than pretending like I don’t want to strangle rude people, your Square Peg is hardly an actress), I still got a role in the musical.

The role? A courtesan.

If you check out the link to the musical, you’ll see see that the story takes place in ancient Rome, where a slave (Pseudolus) tries to win his freedom by helping his master woo a courtesan named Philia. Well, there would be a house filled with other courtesans along with Philia, and I got a role as one of them. I think her name was Vibrata.

Except, even though your Square Peg is a wordsmith, she wasn’t quite sure what a courtesan was. So, while overcome with excitement at landing her first role in a musical, she went home and went to her trusty dictionary, where she looked up the word.

courtesan (noun): a prostitute with a courtly, wealthy, or upper-class clientele

Yep, I went right to my beloved drama teacher and told him that there was no way I could be in the musical. Excuses about my parents not really feeling the amount of time I would spend outside of school were given. And no, they wouldn’t have cared for that, but you know the bigger issue, don’t you? My mother would have somehow learned that I was playing a hooker. And she would have killed me dead. I mean, as sneaky as I was in getting away with staying out late or hanging out with people she didn’t really know, the heavens would have revealed it to her in a dream. No doubt. Just like she knew that her oldest daughter was making funny faces behind her back one day (without turning around), my mother would have discovered the truth. And your Square Peg would be no Square Peg at all, because, again, I would have been killed dead.

My drama teacher was very understanding. Maybe he knew the real truth, that an African girl playing a hooker–no matter how tame it would be for a high school production–would have been shipped back to the Motherland in a pine box.

I was in the audience on opening night, cheering on my friends in the show, cheering on the director, cheering on the brave girl who replaced me. And in the back of my mind, imagining the death that would have been unleashed by my mother’s hands. So along with all that cheering was massive, massive relief.

I still love the theater, of course. Musicals, plays: the stage continues to thrill and amaze me. And it’s even sweeter from the comfort of my seat. Haaaaaa.

On Smart Cookies.

Let’s celebrate this Throwback Thursday with a ‘lil story/psychoanalysis/discussion/boatloadof unanswerable questions, shall we?

I’ll start by saying this: I’m a smart cookie. No shade or ego. I simply own my intelligence. And if you haven’t done the same thing, please do. You’re not walking around telling perfect strangers that you know it all. You’re just acknowledging what you know to be true for yourself: you’ve got a working brain. Woo hoo. And it’s all relative, by the way. I may not still understand binomials, but I know plenty of other things. In other words, no one is 100 percent amazing brain-wise, perhaps with the exception of the Mensa ladies and Einstein. And there are plenty of folks who side eye a pile of books but know plenty of things about life and how to navigate it. But own it, either way.

However, back in the day, this chocolate bookworm who enjoyed many days reading encyclopedias in her parent’s basement and devouring facts and information entered high school and almost immediately buried her brain. And there was only one group of people I hid this fact from: boys. Don’t ask me how or why. I was 14 years old. (Actually, with the way my birth month is set up, when I started high school, I was 13 years old. A little girl. Le sigh.) In looking back, there was no rhyme or reason to it. One day in 9th grade, a boy in my class asked me if I understood the assignment our teacher had just given us. I described it in detail, interpreting it for him, after which he said, “wow, you’re really smart.” What was my response? “No, I’m not,” I replied, laughing nervously. This happened often: denying, above all, that I had any abilities whatsoever when it came learning, analytical thinking, etc., especially when a boy acknowledged me. There was a bizarre level of panic when this happened–I didn’t want to be mocked or seen as knowing more than the guy standing in front of me. Was it innate? A weird biological response to the age-old adage of girls only needing to look pretty? After all, my mother, one of the most intelligent women I know, never uttered those words to me. I was never told to “dumb it down.” So where did the desire to downplay any kind of smarts even come from? Oh, and there were girls who uttered that “wow, you’re smart” comment to me, too, and although I still downplayed it, I don’t recall that almost manic need to dismiss their words like I would with boys.

Maybe it goes back to what I said above. No wants to seem like an arrogant jerk while acknowledging what they can do. But for women, it’s almost as if we carry 100 pounds of guilt when it comes to acknowledging what we can do, particularly when it comes to intelligence. The archaic, ridiculous notions of women’s abilities being limited to cooking meals and birthing babies have been around since time began; maybe I was carrying that on me, in me, without even fully realizing it. Maybe I was also deathly shy and didn’t want, even for a second, any attention being given to me. Which is also true. Maybe it’s all the above. I don’t know. When I entered college and realized that my education was actually up to me (in other words, school ain’t free; tuition is involved; you get what  you pay for), this need to hide my brain still took a while to go away. I remember being a college freshman in English 101. The assignment was to write about a memory. Our professor chose to highlight my essay and read portions of it aloud to the class. She was full of praise and encouragement. I wanted to fall through the ground. By senior year, when my strengths and confidence as a writer had grown, another professor did the exact same thing. I handled it differently. I thanked him and told him how his encouragement helped me. Was it age? Growing older? 18 vs.22? Or did it have something to do with a female professor vs. a male professor giving the praise and encouragement, the male approval making it seem more acceptable? Insert thinking emoji here.

(Told you there’d be unanswerable questions.)

I do know one thing: “dumb it down” has been said to me in my adult life more than once. Not at 14 and not at 22. While adulting. And although I don’t necessarily understand when I turned the corner from terror of smartness to finally feeling confident in my abilities, I do know that each time I heard that silly, objectionable phrase, I laughed in the speaker’s face. So there you go. 

These days, my abilities are only important to one person: me. Sometimes I’d love to revisit that 13/14 year-old and help her to stop choosing fear and pretense. But we’ll wait for another smart cookie to build that time machine. 

Questions for This Square Peg.

Are you somehow impervious to injury? Is that why there are no band-aids in your house, which caused you to fashion a toilet paper tourniquet when you cut yourself shaving last night? 
Why do you think vengeful thoughts when people you smile at don’t smile back?

You totally pretended he wasn’t there, didn’t you?

Why do you say “nice to see you again” when you know full well that this person has no clue who you are?

Why does doing the above tickle you so much?

Why does the phrase “I don’t think Idris is that handsome” enrage you so? 

Because, honestly, that’s one less person you have to imagine fighting at sundown for his heart, right?

What was THAT?

You intend on remaining cryptic about THAT, don’t you?

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