Release

My life, for as long as I can remember, has been one of responsibility.  I’ve known how to change diapers since I was six. I don’t remember ever not helping out in the kitchen, and when my mother passed away, I basically took over as far as my sisters were concerned.  I moved away from home at 19, but still held the role of the responsible sister.  Once they became older teenagers, with their own set of interests, I was so unaccustomed to living in the moment, I seized a little too much of the day, and was pregnant before I knew it.  And then I got married.  And then I was separated, and pregnant again, and separated, and divorced, and a single parent.  It’s hard to know what the world is like, when it’s always on your shoulders.

My life’s mission statement often reads one word: workhorse.  Having fun, occasionally comes with feelings of guilt, particularly when things aren’t lined up exactly as they should be.  There is all sorts of major crap going on in my life right now, and I fully plan on addressing it.  But tonight, to hell with all of that.  Tonight I have every intention of dancing until I can barely remember my name.  Pressure busts pipes, yo.  I’ve got far too much on my plate to break, so I’m gonna vent some of this energy right quick.

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“Two Blushing Pilgrims”

Take your forefinger and, very lightly, horizontally trace it across the middle of your top lip.  Nice, right?  Now, even more lightly, repeat that motion across your bottom lip.  Yeah…that’s the good stuff.

My lips, and more specifically my bottom lip is fairly epic.  This is not posturing, but fact.  Some folks can sing.  Others have flawless skin.  My lips are the stuff of which dreams are made.  Ill-equipped for the objectification that came with them at 13, I’d practice pursing them in the mirror.  Somehow, I believed this would strengthen whatever muscle allowed my bottom lip to hang lax and pout, provoking crude suggestions from my male peers. It wasn’t until my first trip to a real makeup counter, when I asked for a very understated nude color, and the older Latina sister said, “Honey, if I had your lips, I wouldn’t know what this color looked like.”  She dismissed my apprehension and sold me a gorgeous plum lipstick.  The rest is history.

Love for my own lips has caused me to focus on other people’s lips.  Is it just a part of their face, or do they make it the star of the show? Lips do, of course, tell your story literally and figuratively.  Additionally, spring fever is in full swing, and all I can think about is kissing.

That’s right. I’m a grown woman with two kids, who has clearly engaged in some discernibly adult conduct, but kissing is on the “few of my favorite things” list.  I’ve never regretted kissing someone.  Of course, there’s that tentative moment, where you’re both suspended in the moment of whether or not this is what you’re actually going to do.  But everything after that is certain.  A kiss is decided and sure; its intimacy is almost protective.  Kissing employs each and every one of those nerve endings packed into your lips.  It’s one of those things I could go on about, but I’ll just let my girl Bassey Ikpi take it home.

Yeah…that’s where it’s at.

The Mom

Being a mother doesn’t make me a super goddess flower.  It doesn’t make me this special chosen being, who has ascended to a level past all childless women.  It doesn’t even make me good.  Sure, I think I try to be a pretty good mother; only because I try to be a pretty good person.  I often joke with my children that they drew the short straw in the moms category.

I make a conscious decision to not discuss beef with their father here because aside from the fact that someday, they will come to this blog and see the things I have said, he’s trying.  I can say that the dude is really trying.  With my acknowledgment of that, I see that it encourages him to continue to try.  There are days when I am resentful of this.  “So now I have to coddle you just to get you to ___.”  The fact is, if that’s what it takes for him to be there for The Chocolate Wonders, I’ll take it.

Effective parenting, though, is practice makes perfect at it’s finest.  Factually, he’s short on practice, but long on pride.  He wants to show himself, his kids – and in some part, me – that he can do it.  I commend that.  But with that pride still comes the lack of communication that can frustrate transitions that could have gone smoothly otherwise.  And that’s where we are today.  We’re on the way to hashing it out, but it was only because I was insistent on speaking to him, rather than allowing him to poke his head in the sand.

There are times when my method of dealing with adversity and unfavorable situations leave much to be desired.  Though I have grown leaps and bounds in that department, it is still a part of my reputation.  It’s what my sisters know of me, it’s what my kid knows of me.  As one of the most painful parts of what seems like another life, he knows it probably better than any other.  When I calmly respond to whatever the latest craziness is, he is as apprehensive as I am when he exhibits reliability.  It’s a trade off.  I’m doing my best to not fly off the handle, because when I unleash the dragon that is my tongue, it’s vicious.

I was angry, and had every right to be so on behalf of my kids.  So I would flame him on my blog, and on the phone, and on his voice mail if need be. I was right. He wasn’t holding up his end of the bargain.  And his inaction was causing the kids to separate themselves from him.  They were ambivalent about whether or not he would call.  The knew that I would tense up when I talked to him.  Though civil, I despised him.  Though I lied and said that I didn’t think about him one way or the other, it was a lie.  I could not stand him.  They were beginning to see him for what he was.  Irresponsible.  He was accepting the fact that he was being edged out.  I was “winning.”  Except…

They didn’t choose their father.  I did.  I was, dare I say, culpable.  If I just let him vanish into the ether, in what way could that possibly benefit them?  So I did everything I could to get them to rebuild contact.  I harassed him (nicely) when time would elapse and he hadn’t called.  I would drive to New Orleans to get them there.  I would drive them to Atlanta.  I made sure he knew about important events.  I made him a part of whatever was going on, despite the distance.  I felt like I was wasting my time.  I felt like I was doing everything.  I WAS doing everything.  I STILL do everything.  A good friend pointed out that I do everything, because that’s the way it is.  Simple as that.

And it’s worth it, because that’s their father.  They love him as freely and unconditionally as they love me.  I’ll do everything it takes to ensure that they continue to do so.  He and I will NEVER be friends.  But it’s not about my friendship, or even my preference.  If we don’t work together, nobody wins.  I’ll take a little stress and some headaches to help them win.  I’m so grateful that he is stepping up and doing the same.

Stripped

“When you have the same audience for a long time, I think you start writing what you think fits that voice.”
c. Cliff’s Crib

He gave me that very real, and necessary nugget of insight when asking about my own writing.  I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t occasionally ham it up a bit here.  Sure, I’m myself here, but there are times where I engage in a bit of bravado.  “All the world’s a stage,” right?  I enjoy being the clever bard.  I enjoy writing to entertain.

But sometimes, and this is no dis to the folks that dig what I do, I’m writing for you and not to you.  Though not totally wrong, it leaves room to become patronizing – totally unacceptable.  When I do that – when I prevent myself from growth – I cheat both of us with a stagnant product.  I think the folks that have been loyal to me actually come to me for something just a little left of center.  Not that I’m ground-breaking, but there’s a decided me-ness that I think folks like.  Being liked has always scared me a little bit.

I’ve always been a bit of a fringe kid.  My readership has seen a bit of an increase as of late, and I guess it sent me into a bit of a quandary.  I’m…decidedly regular.  I’m not an intellectual.  I’m not rich or powerful.  I’m just me.  This little black chick that grew up inside of books and her own head, who wasn’t used to being noticed.  So there’s a part of me that isn’t quite sure what people are looking for when they come here.  Am I supposed to be profound?  Funny?  How vulnerable can I be?  Will it be off-putting and people won’t come back?

When I write something that is enjoyed, there is a pressure to make lightening strike again, and I can get a little stuck.  I want folks to enjoy what they read – to come here with the knowledge that what they read will be fresh, insightful and real, even if unpopular.  The only voice I can give with any honesty is my own, and that’s the only voice that I will give.  Don’t be afraid to disagree with me.  I want to hear you.

This is my blog.

But you are always welcome here.

The Stage

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms;
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lin’d,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well sav’d, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion;
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

– Jacques of William Shakespeare’s As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII

When my twelve year old self read this for the first time, it was as an assignment for my eighth grade speech class.  Even then, those first words struck me as powerful.  We’re characters.  I get it.  Adaptation to our respective roles is an essential part of survival.  The way I behave at a picnic is not the way I behave at work.  But in those different roles, I’m still Mel.  Persona is fine in its place, but not at the expense of your conscience, true self and spirit.  There are times when we allow what is expected to dictate actions and and reactions, rather than our authentic beliefs.

Let your inner self define the role, not the other way around.  I believe in the better nature of people.  I’m sure that though there are some bad apples out there, most of us at least have a skeletal knowledge of what is decent.  We know how we want to be treated.  Be true to that part of yourself.

That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion;
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

We go out the way we come in.  That part of life is constant and unavoidable.  Fortunately, we have control over making everything that takes place in-between count for something.

“Oh you mad cuz I’m stylin on you?”

I haven’t done a freestyle in a hot minute.  Additionally, I haven’t posted anything in a hot minute, so swim this stream of consciousness with ya people right quick.

The news has been abuzz with talks of the four recent instances of air traffic controllers falling asleep during overnight shifts.  This morning, the news referenced the FAA taking “drastic measures” to ensure this doesn’t happen again.  How drastic?  The FAA is implementing is an “anti-fatigue policy.”  There will also be an additional person in the tower, as well as a member of management to occasionally ensure things are operating as they should.  I can only imagine that the pictures-on-a-dart-board method of scheduling will now be a thing of the past.  Are they serious?  Being sensible and efficient is what qualifies as drastic?  What if that lone individual has a medical emergency; or, heaven forbid, has to use the lavatory?  FAA…you stupid.

As a person who will not hesitate to gas up the Hyundai and hit the road, I feel qualified to say that some people should really just fly.  The left lane is the FAST LANE.  It is not the place for you state your moral objection to these whipper snappers by driving one mile under the speed limit.  It will get you flipped off, run over…or stabbed.  Conversely, the right lane is NOT the fast lane.  Therefore, there is no reason to ride my bumper when the left lane is readily available to you.  Do it to me, and I will take absolutely no issue with making you my bitch by going the minimal speed limit.  Cracker Barrel makes me ornery.  And while we’re on the topic…

For those of you who have been to Cracker Barrel, do you also believe it to be a place full of stock characters.  You’ve got three-five Elderly Parent/Middle Aged Offspring tables, two huge family groups, four regular sized family groups, two tables of blue haired ladies, four-five tables of elderly couples, and a maximum of three “stray negro” tables.*  I won’t go into the fact that though the food is not spicy, you WILL have to procure police tape for your GI system.

This bears repeating:  Not everything requires your input.  Some people have this habit of being malicious under the guise of “just being truthful.”  There will always be circumstances that require us to speak up on uncomfortable or contentious topics.  Whether or not you are a rude jackass, however, is totally under your control.  I say it all the time, but it can’t be said enough.

So, Turkish Airlines has Kobe as a spokesman?  It’s so weird and random.  There’s a joke in there somewhere – I’m just too lazy to find it.  Plus, it’s Kobe, so cracking a joke is almost like cheating during an open book multiple choice test, right?  Of course, that makes me doubly lazy, but ah well.

What is it about the male eye that prevents them from seeing…anything.  I have a father, I have a brother, I’ve been married and I have a son.  The number of times I’ve heard, “Where’s my…?”  followed by an exasperated “Yes” when asked if they looked [insert obvious place here], only to discover it in plain sight is astounding.  There was a study that showed that even when it comes to personal appearances, men and women see things differently.  (I can’t remember where.  Google. That’s what I’m gonna do.)  Perhaps this also affects the ability to find socks and ties.

I can’t stay in hotel rooms ever without thinking about my dearly departed Foxy, giving our room the once over with her towel and old school Lysol in the brown bottle.  I miss that lady so much.  I’m convinced that if she pursued her education, rather than life as a housewife, she’d have been head honcho at the Center for Disease Control & Prevention.  That woman could isolate and eradicate germs like no other.

And speaking of germs, women enjoy giving men crap for their sloppy ways.  However, there is nothing more disgusting than a women’s public restroom.  I’ll spare you the gory details, but I work in a professional environment, and you’d think I worked at a truck stop.  Disgusting.

I love the centered feeling drama-free road trips give me.  I wasn’t even stressed by the fact that my favorite CD was scratched, and found the radio to be uncharacteristically agreeable on Sunday.  I actually smelled fresh mountain breezes, yo.  Tide isn’t lying.  I had the windows down, and in the middle of nowhere, all of a sudden everything smelled like fresh laundry, for about 30 minutes.  good times.  I need to do this even more often in the spring.

*Often stared at by at least two of the elderly table couples.

Rites of Passage Deferred

I loved growing up in the 80s.  Call me biased, but our pop culture was just so…awesome.  Musically, we had Prince, Michael Jackson and Madonna, each in their respective primes.  I won’t even touch the magic possessed by 80s hair bands and their power ballads.  Fashionably…well, the fashion was kinda crappy, but in a fun way.  Jellies and leg warmers and neon, oh my!  John Hughes.  The Brat Pack. Malcolm-Jamal Warner was gonna be my baby’s daddy.  The 80s were great times.

However, there were some things I never got into.  Things that may well get my card revoked.  But…here goes:

I have never watched Gremlins.  At this point, I have no desire to see it.  At one point, I’m sure it was almost an obligation, but…no.  I also have yet to watch the first Back to the Future in its entirety, and I have never seen ANY of the other ones.

I didn’t own a Swatch watch.  Not ever.  My parents were not concerned with keeping me current with fads.  They were strong on that principle, and told me I’d understand when I got older.  Bull.  I’m older with kids of my own.  I still don’t understand.

I was not allowed to have an acid washed jean-skirt/jacket outfit.  For some reason, my mother thought it was “too-grown.”  In my family, “too grown” meant eff whatever the hell you were planning, because the parentals were cutting that short.

I did not have the “light-skinned brother” fixation.  All those creole boys that the girls were fawning over creeped me the hell out.  The same went for El DeBarge and those of his ilk.  That hasn’t changed.  I’m still preferential to brothers so dark, the palms of their hands are tan.

I was not a fan of the Smurfs.  The whole concept was annoying.  And they way they said “Smurf” for everything. Get the hell out of here.  I didn’t even buy into the “Smurfette is a ho” thing either.  I just thought she was a skanky tease.  All advertising and no selling.  I can’t get jiggy with that type of broad.

I was a grown woman before I saw ANYTHING with Eddie Murphy, other than Saturday Night Live.  Never even got the opportunity to sneak a peek.

I didn’t like Pop Tarts.  Originally, my parents outright refused to buy them.  We begged and pleaded and pleaded and begged until the ultimately gave in. Worst. Idea. Ever.  There was too much jelly stuff in them.  I preferred Nabisco’s Toastettes.  I don’t think they still sell them.  Just the right amount of filling, with little sugar crystals on top.

Spill it.  What generational thing did you just not “get?”