A Word on Arrogance

While politicking with the illustrious Cliff this morning, he brought up a topic which incited me to go on a tangent regarding human nature.  We see ourselves as superior creatures for several reasons, and I believe rightfully so, but we have the tendency to pad our résumés.  Not everything   Dare I say that in some parts of the animal kingdom that surpass us due to our devolution of common decency.*  We can develop social skills, but we can just as easily choose not to develop them, so I am not ready to say that we corner the market on things like fellow feeling.

I was, however, able to come up with one trait in which we humans corner the market.  Arrogance.  We have that in spades.  Our judgment, undeserved senses of entitlement (which we ALL have to greater or lesser degrees) and posturing.  The “fake it til you make it” effect, as it were.  That doesn’t fly in the animal kingdom.  We make foolish assertions, heap our views and opinions on others, and due to either a lack of interest, or simple exhaustion, a person can sneak into the role of the dominant or alpha personality.

Not so in the animal kingdom.  Take the lion for example – simply hearing “lion” evokes images of royalty, leadership and power.  This is not by accident.  The lion is the way he is because he is the king of the jungle; not because his number of Facebook friends or Twitter followers.  He is the king of the jungle because if you call yourself bringing it to a lion, he will wreck shop.  If you think you can pull one over on him, bring it.  The lion won’t duck fights or make excuses.  You’re bigger?  You’re badder?  The lion wants you to come get some.  In the end, there is a winner and a loser – possible a corpse.  The defeated lion doesn’t spend a week on Twitter moaning about how he beat himself.  “If he wouldn’t have kicked that dirt in my eye…”

An additional fact that Cliff pointed out to me, the lion stands on what he has done.  A lot of humans put up elaborate façades, to cover a string of non-accomplishments.  When a lion serves another, IF the defeated lives to see another day, there’s no discussion.  It’s obvious to all.  When the lion roars, everything else with sense runs.

Except of course, arrogant humans, with their compulsion to prove that they are “alphas.”  Just as a lion is a lion, an alpha simply is an alpha.  No amount of posturing makes a person something that they aren’t.

*Cracking jokes about a person who drove a segway off a cliff and died is definitely evidence of devolution.

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How Mr. Rogers Gets Kids Beat Down

Or How Plums Became My Favorite Fruit

This guy's advice >than all that bull you're talking.

You may have heard this before, but I was born a Maverick.  I didn’t want to breastfeed, I tried climbing stairs in a body cast, and I got in a fight on my first day of kindergarten.  This also marks the first time I received one of the most diabolical tag team beat downs in Beauty Jackson history.  What can I say? First day of school – go hard or go home.

August, 1981:  Sesame Street, Electric Company, commercials and of course, Mr. Rogers have me chomping at the bit to go to school.  Daniel Striped Tiger, Prince Tuesday, and Ana Platypus all got on Trolley -dressed in full school bus regalia – and soaked up knowledge.  New children would be everywhere.  School was going to be great.

I began losing the moment we went back to school shopping.  Instead of Nikes and penny loafers, I got Zips and saddle loafers.  Instead of the backpack I’d created in my vision, my mother took her time and actually sewed a bag for me.  In retrospect, I was an unappreciative snot.  To my four year old self, the indignity of my dreams deferred were unbearable.    And then:

Ma, how am I going to find out my school bus number?  What time does it pick me up?

It doesn’t.  Auntie Shirley is going to pick you up and drop you off.

But that’s not what Mr. Rogers said.

Little girl, Mr. Rogers don’t run nothing here.  I am telling you not to catch the school bus.  Your mother.  You live on Beekman Road, not in the Land of Make-Believe.

Just maybe Aunt Shirley could be the voice of reason.  I picked my moment.  Just as School Bus Trolley went through the tunnel into the Land of Make-Believe I asked, all kindergarten-cool:

Aunt Shirley, where does the bus stop around here?

Melanie, I already know that you know the routine.  I’m going to bring you to school and pick you up!  Rocky, meet her at her class after school.

These people were screwing over my entire life.  Nothing was going as it should.  In my first day despair, I didn’t want to go to school.  I had to be forced into the car. Once I was at school, I calmed down, and was delighted to discover a tin with my name on it, full of Play Doh! Mentally, I frolicked in celebration of kindergarten dreams fulfilled.

Had that beast child not bitten my arm, hence exposing her cheek and veritably begging me to bite it, this story may have ended differently.  However, since that did happen, and despite the fact that she started it, I was punished during Play Doh time.  I was 0 for everything.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the last damned straw.  At the end of the day, I had a message for my parents, Aunt Shirley, and even that unwitting snitch Rocky:

FUCK YALL!  You don’t know shit.  Mr. Rogers said I’m getting Play dough, and back packs with flowers, and PENNY loafers.  NOT FUCKING SADDLE LOAFERS!  Are we on a farm? Why are you giving me saddles?  I’m supposed to ride a bus!!!  Did Mr. Rogers say, “Okay folks, let’s all pile into the fire trap that is Aunt Shirley’s Buick?  Hell no!!! Trolley was dressed to the nines!  What’s wrong with you people?  Did Prince Tuesday try to bite a chunk out of Daniel Striped Tiger, then get mad because he left his cheek exposed and Daniel bit him back?  HE WAS A TIGER FOR SHIT’S SAKE!  If Mr. Rogers’ school day can end without a tiger biting anyone, certainly I should expect to go unscathed.   This isn’t kindergarten!! THESE ARE LIES!!! This is bullshit.  I’m catching the damn bus.

When they called for bus students at day’s end, I scooped my dreaded bag, and marched to the cafeteria.  This marked the first time I ever experienced terror.  As they called buses, the cafeteria began to empty, and I knew I would miss my chance.  I dashed through the door, breathlessly explaining that I would miss my bus. I was unprepared to hear, “Well, what’s your bus number?”  Blast.  I hadn’t thought that far.  Obviously, I couldn’t say, “Well, every adult and older kid in my life is conspiring to murk my dream, so I don’t really have a bus number.  Can we just ride around until I know what a bus feels like?”  What they didn’t know was that I had been reading since I was 3 1/2.  I saw the bus that Chad, my new boo in my mind, was heading toward, and blurted out, “FOUR-ONE-FOUR!”  They loaded me on.

You know how you do something wrong, and the experience is awful.  Nothing about it is the way you thought it would be, and you find yourself learning a lesson for the ages?  That’s not what happened here.  Kids were laughing and shouting.  One of the big girls gave me a piece of candy.  We stopped twice and screamed, “BYYYYYE! SEE YOU TOMORROWWW!” to the departing student.  Glorious.  We arrived at the last stop – then known as Lawrence Creek Apartments.  The bus driver smiled and said, “Isn’t this your stop baby girl?  Time to go home.”  Obviously it wasn’t, but I hadn’t thought that far.  I knew the apartment complex.  Family friends lived  there.  Aunt Cassandra and Uncle Wayne.  They’d get me.  Total cakewalk.  As children filed to their parents, I debated turning left or right.

I halfheartedly called to them at the entrance of the complex, then started to cry.  A nice lady walked across the street, and I spilled my story.  She invited me indoors, but I was hesitant because she was a stranger.  Mr. Rogers told me not to mess with them, but I was admittedly out of options.  Plus, she had a little girl slightly younger than me wearing a Barbie shirt and eating a plum (exotic fruit to my apple and banana munching ass), so I’m winning again.  She saw me hungrily eye the plum, and offered me two.  As I was relishing in the taste of my first plum, she was calling the school to report that she’d found a lost child.  Within minutes, my aunt and the school principal pulled up to the house.

Dear Readers, I took one look at my aunt and walked to the principal’s car like I’d never seen that woman or Buick in all my days.  Though all smiles with the principal,  I knew that she was totally over me and my big bag of bull.  I was prepared for it to get really bad, really quickly.

Auntie Shirley, have you ever had a plum?  They are SO GOOD.

To this date, I believe that only fear of incarceration prevented her from putting the remaining plum in my sock and bludgeoned me to death.  Instructed to finish the plum,  I savored it as though it was my last meal.  For couple of epidermal layers, I’m sure it was.  Shirley had first dibs, then before my nose dried, Mama tagged in.  When Daddy got home and she explained the story to him, I took one look at his face and laid across the bed.  I knew the drill.

My family and I always recount this with a mixture of humor and terror; it could have been a really bad scene.   But, this is a story I’m sure I’ll tell well into old age.  I defied all odds to ride the yellow dragon, and lived to tell the tale.  Plus I still roll with plums.  HARD.

Mama’s Work is Never Done

Or Why I Need Bill Dukes On Speed Dial

I hope you guys have missed me.  I battling the crud for a few days, and I certainly missed you guys.  Of course, it’s back to school time, so the beat goes on.  Anyone who knows anything will admit that parenting isn’t easy.  Finge and B.B. amaze me, make me laugh, and are two of the coolest people that I know of any age range.  But being the parents of two old souls can also be exhausting, frustrating and thankless.  Finge is now in middle school.  The magnitude of this body-slammed me last night when I realized that this

and this

overnight, became this

So the days of him singing Elmo’s World and the One Fine Face song from Sesame Street are gone.  He’s in middle school.  The world of seven different instructors and school dances.  In elementary school, I was a skater.  I didn’t study.  I didn’t have to.  What made me a bright and capable elementary school student, made me a terrible middle schooler.  The need to study was total culture shock.  Homework? Psh.  I hated it, and the fact that it was taking more than 20 minutes, made me not want to do it.  My son is now experiencing that.

For two weeks, I would get home from school and ask if there was homework?  The answer was always either no, or that it was already done.  Okay.  This is your school career, and you know homework is required.  You’ve done it before, let’s see if you’re growing up.

Enter school sanctioned snitching, known as Edline.  I get an weekly report of his progress. EVERYTHING – down to post-lunch flatulence (isn’t that one of the most hilarious words in the English language). So imagine my surprise when I received a report that said he had assignments that were either incomplete, or not turned in at all. So, I called him into the room and

We got it together.  Or at least, we’re getting it together.  This is the age where a boy can really lose interest in school, so from the bottom of my heart, thank you Edline, for being a punk ass snitch – my boy’s future thanks you as well.

What if Opes was one of us?

So in the first episode of the last season of Oprah’s show, she surprised her audience members (300 of them) with a trip to Australia.  I don’ t care who you are and what you do, I am willing to wager that the majority of my readers are working stiffs just like me, or even if you have cheddar, you’re still balling within the acceptable limits of ballification.  Not so for Oprah. So I just had a conversation with Oprah in my mind, and I’ll share it with you.

[Oprah teleports next to me in the Hyundai]

M: Oh snap!!! It’s Oprah!

O: Hi Mel. How are you today?

M: Oh, everything is everything, Oprah. I’m just grinding, working hard trying to make this come up happen.  Had to run for the bus this morning, but I didn’t let a little thing like that get me down.  You know, when I look at you, and the fact that you were relentless in the pursuit of success, I could only appreciate that.  I don’t always see eye to eye with you on things, but I admire that about you.  You really are every woman.

O: Well, to be frank, that’s just something I tell yall.  I’m a billionaire.  Are you a billionaire?  I’m not trying to be a douche about it.  Sometimes my info is off. If you’re not, I’m stating facts.  I’m not every woman, but I used to be, and put your mind to it, you can come up in the game and add dollar signs to your name, as your friend likes to say.

M: As my friend likes to…you look at my chat logs Oprah?

O:  [Gives the “Heaux do you know who I am?” hand motion] Oh, and I read your lil funky ass blog too.  You were talking real greasy about the kid.  Not the one you have now – that Mental Oasis joint. *toothpick appears in her mouth* Yeah.  You better be glad you killed that noise a while back, because I was gonna have to send my peoples to come see you.  You got it together though.

M:  Well damn Oprah, I mean you’re just gonna roll up in the Hyundai and…

O:  Look, before your mouth gets you in trouble, I’m not coming for beef. I just like to pop in and check on people from time to time.  You’re doing your little writing thing, and that’s good, I like that.  Just keep handling your business and don’t quit.

M: That’s really decent of you man.  I kinda thought…well, you know what I thought.  You’re alright though.  So enough about me, what’s going on with you? What’s good in Oprah’s world?

O: [Rolling a spliff] Ain’t shit.  Just a routine day for me: drank some coffee flavored with the highest quality Cambodian breast milk.  After yoga, I rode my unicorn around Pluto.  You know, they said it’s not a planet, but that joint is still big as fuck.  Act right and maybe you can roll through and see for yourself.

M:  That’s what’s up Oprah.  So, that’s all you got going on?

O:  Yeah. [Pauses to think] Oh, know what I did? I sent 300 heads that I never met to Australia.  Just some ole pedestrian ass run of the mill shit for me. [Opes shrug] We were having a set your money on fire party, and I came up with that idea.  You ever been to one of those joints?

M: A party where you set the money on fire, Oprah?  No.  I can’t say I’ve had the occasion to be in attendance.

O: [Mocking] “The occasion to be in…” bitch, we at school?  What? You salty ‘cuz you broke?  Being broke builds character playa.  Don’t sweat it.  Your time is gonna come.  Until then…[snaps fingers and a “Oprah Could Have Sent Me To Sydney but Created This Punk Ass T-Shirt Instead” shirt appears on my body]

M:  Uh, thanks Oprah.

O: [Licks the side of my face] ENJOY YO’SELF! [disappears]

M:  Ugh.

O: [Reappears] Oh, and that was not at all gay.  I just did it because I’m Oprah and I could.

M: I dunno Oprah, that was a little bit gay.

O: [Gives me the once over] Eh, you’ve got a better rack than Gayle, but she can make it clap.  [Does shaky “so-so” hand motion] Yours needs work.

M:  Oprah…you be wa…

O: [Cuts me off with the “Duh bitch! I’m Oprah!” stare again and disappears]

[Hyundai-with-the-butterfly-doors becomes an Aston Martin V8 Vantage Roadster]

M: AWWWWWWW SHIT!

O:  [Echoing in the distance] SIKE! Stop talking shit on yo bloooooooog bitch!

[The car is once more a Hyundai-with-the-butterfly-doors]

Fin

Who’s bad?

You need people like me. You need people like me so you can point your fuckin’ fingers and say, “That’s the bad guy.” So… what that make you? Good? You’re not good. You just know how to hide, how to lie. Me, I don’t have that problem. Me, I always tell the truth. Even when I lie. So say good night to the bad guy!

– Tony Montana Scarface

Once upon a time, I was married.  I hated it.  We were mismatched, ill-equipped and just flat-out wrong for one another.  I left–without a clear-cut game plan.  We were part a community that frowned on divorce.  If there was no clear evidence of cheating you were, for lack of a better term, stuck.  He knew this, and though I knew he was cheating, I didn’t know he was cheating, and guilt tripped myself into passivity.  We remained married and added another kid into the mix.  Ever the maverick and rebel, I chose being “a good girl” over being smart.*  I can not stress to anyone how ridiculous it is for an individual to make major life altering decisions at 21. It was then that I realized, we weren’t together due to love and commitment.  We were like two people in a public bathroom, waiting each other out for the chance to funk it up.  So after the last bad scene in a string of bad scenes, I took the kids and we left.

It was rough, because where I suffered the marriage in silence, he was very vocal in suffering his embarrassment.  On the surface, I left, so he had the high ground.  He went to church, played Tank songs, and whenever he had the children, he made sure they looked dirty and pitiful.  Poor urchins with their crazy mother who didn’t want to be married anymore.  It didn’t matter that they were in my custody and I received no support; he was to be pitied.   I had to stand the hard-line amidst ridicule, ostracism and ultimately threats to my personal safety.

At the end of the day, I’m not afraid to be the hammer.  I believe that as much as it might burn, if something isn’t working, it just isn’t working.  Rough times, yes, I believe that’s to be weathered.  But there was nothing salvageable about that marriage.  There are tons of relationships – even outside of the romantic spectrum – that are like that.  Even if it’s a bad job, or a friendship that has become healthy or one-sided, no one wants to be the trigger man.  It’s much easy to play the role of “He just stopped speaking to me,” or “She just gave her two weeks notice without any reason,” because the victim role is easy.  Irrespective of the toxicity that precedes the leap into villainy, we have this compulsion to need to be the one wronged.

So I ask, why can’t we just decide that something is wrong for us and press on.  Why does there have to be closure, and discussions, and all the other nonsensical rituals that allow us to be trapped in things that are wrong for us?  This isn’t a call for chronic callousness and irresponsibility, and there are definitely some circumstances where discussion and discourse are needed. I didn’t walk away from my marriage and never speak to homie again.  We still had two kids to care for, and custody and visitation to arrange.  We spoke on that.  However, the circumstances of divorce was something I refused to hash out, because we’d covered all of that before.  Everyone has regrettable actions in their past, but I can say with certainty that I have never regretted removing the kids and myself from that situation.

I think, whenever something seems daunting, it would behoove us to have the balls to get up and make something happen.  Just because I did this in this aspect of my life, it doesn’t mean I do it always.  I think I just needed to remind myself that I could.

*No, being the good girl does not equate being dumb, but to disregard self-preservation in favor of the mere appearance of good is absolute insanity.

OUR Game

Bonafide Who Dat

Sports are competitive. I get it.  I also get that once the underdog becomes the big dog, the popular thing to do is take shots at the crown.  But there are people who talk about the city of New Orleans, as though it peed in their soup.  Last night, I encountered such an individual, and though I brushed it off at first, the things he said REALLY  bothered me, because I take where I’m from to heart.  I think it has become fashionable to refer to the Saints win as, “Oh blah blah blah, yeah, after Katrina, the city needed to feel good. Whatever.”  All that is true.  I don’t think any New Orleanian in his right mind would say that a Saints win would repair any tangible thing in the city.  But what they would tell you is that the Saints are a part of us.  Our key players came to our city intent on giving the fans something memorable.  Despite all this “feel good story” talk, we didn’t get to the Superbowl overnight.  In 2005, where a feel good story would have been most needed, we went 3-13 under Haslett.  With Peyton’s first year, we went 10-6, and finally petered out at the NFC Championship game.  In 2008, we went 8-8, which included getting thoroughly trounced on national television by none other than the Indianapolis Colts at the season opener.  But, a story that involves hard work, focus and sacrifice doesn’t make for good television, so people don’t pay attention to that.  Crafting an offense AND (gasp) defense with the talent to be a Super Bowl contender took three seasons under Payton.  It was a family win, and make no mistake, the Saints were family long before Katrina.

AND FOR THE DAMN RECORD, it’s not like the shit was handed to us.  Even once we had the team with the talent, we had to face some of the toughest teams in the league.  And we consistently knocked the stuffing out of undefeated teams. We weren’t beating up on the Browns and the Lions.  We kicked the shit out of the Patriots.  Our 6′ even quarterback stood toe to toe with 6’6 golden boy and future Hall of Famer Tom Brady…and Eli Manning…and Brett Favre…and damn near everyone else sent our way.  So it’s not some flukey feel good story where a ragtag bunch of misfits made good after a couple of speeches. Sean Payton is a beast, Greg Williams is a beast, Jonathan Vilma is a beast, Darren Sharper made getting interceptions almost passe, and Drew Brees is a machine.  And we love it.

I”m not saying this to sell you on how good the Saints were.  You saw it. We got the Lombardi.  I just want you to know that whether you approve or not, we have the right to be happy about our win.  Yes, Katrina happened, and like any other city in this fucked up world we live in, since it primarily impacted black, brown and otherwise marginalized people, we are still struggling just to be functional.  Every New Orleanian, returned and exiled, is acutely aware of that.  Others would do well to be acutely aware of the fact that you will not dictate what we allow to give us respite.  To hear some folks tell it, the NFL gave us the win and every New Orleanian dropped out of college afterward.  Folks are still scratching and surviving.  Save the sanctimony.

Let’s be clear, no matter what happens tonight, New Orleans will still be a city steeped in corruption and chaos.  No matter what happens tonight, New Orleans will be forever altered by the Katrina tragedy.  No matter what happens tonight, people will still be unemployed, bears will still shit in the woods, and groupies will still have unprotected sex.  And with all that, no matter what happens tonight, NO ONE can change the fact that the New Orleans Saints are the World Champions of the National Football League.  And quite frankly, regardless of the outcome, I will be proud of them. They couldn’t give us a new city, but they worked their ass off to give us what they could — a little corner of happy, so muthafuckin TWO DAT.

BLESS YOU BOYS!!!

Like Rama Lama Lama, Kadinga Dadinga Dong

Hey Loves!

Last week was a really “off” week for me. I’m paying the price for being a cog in someone else’s dream, rather than achieving my own, and it’s caused some serious blockage, including in my writing.  However, I don’t feel like hitting yall with all that.  In the midst of my flux, I saw a tweet that made me giggle heartily:

RT @imkishabish: IF WE ON A DATE AND YOU DRINK FROM MY STRAW… #WEGOTOGETHER NOW!

So I shared it with my friends, and realized that we all have these “rules” – seemingly innocuous actions which hold major implications – that we subconsciously abide by.  Now, I am the queen of full disclosure, and my official stance is unless we have the “we go together” talk, we don’t go together. However, there are some things that are just *this side* of extra,that cause us to feel a person is more than just a casual dating acquaintance.  So, all in good fun, I present to you, “You Know How I Know We Go Together?”

  • If you call me at my job to pick up your mama and bring her to Safeway, WE GO TOGETHER NOW.
  • If your brother calls my phone looking for you and starts of the call with “Hey Big Head,” WE GO TOGETHER NOW.
  • If you go in my fridge and just start warming stuff up, WE GO TOGETHER NOW.
  • If you fart and we both laugh, WE GO TOGETHER NOW.
  • If you ask me to iron your shirt and I use th ironing board AND the starch, WE GO TOGETHER NOW.
  • If you take my last Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi or the last of my Raisin Bran and I let you live, WE GO TOGETHER NOW.
  • If I am talking about an aunt, and you say, “The one with the diabetes or the one with the crazy husband,” not only do WE GO TOGETHER NOW, but I will also do something extra freaky to you for remembering my stories.

Despite being clustered, I have a few things going on, but I promise, I’ll be coming through with more posts.  Until then (and by “then,” I mean tomorrow) feel free to chime in with your own “We Go Together Rules.