I Will Smash You and Make Another One!

I was talking to a father once about disciplining children and how things are so very different from when we were growing up. He told me a story about how his three year old rolled her eyes at him. He responded by telling her: “I will smash you and make another one!” His wife was horrified that he’d spoken to their child that way. He didn’t see the problem with what he’d said.

Why can’t all parents be like this? I pondered this while thinking back on an experience I had in a grocery store. A little boy about 8 years old asked his mother for candy. She said, “No.” He replied, “Mom, you’re being such a b!+ch!!” I immediately stepped back because I didn’t want to accidentally become collateral damage as Timmy’s mom laid hands on Timmy. But she did no such thing. She calmly responded “Timmy, I’ve told you before not to speak to me like that.” Oh, so Timmy’s cursed at his mother before? And since he still had all of his teeth and felt comfortable enough to do it again, he clearly understood that there were no consequences for blatant acts of disrespect.

Timmy should have been smashed and Timmy’s mom should have begun working on Timmy 2.0. But he wasn’t smashed and Timmy 2.0 is probably Timmy 1.1 with even more defects than the original. Had I lost my mind and said something like that to my mother, I would have almost certainly been smashed. Even today, I’m likely to get smashed for such disrespect.

Over the years, I’ve seen similar incidents again and again. When did parents start allowing their kids to speak to them any kind of way? It seems as though they’re taking this whole “I want to be my kids’ friend” thing just a bit too far. My mother isn’t a violent mother and never abused us, however, we had more respect for her than to curse at her or call her out of her name. That sort of thing simply didn’t happen in our house. When I see kids on TV shooting their classmates, committing (other) crimes and adopting a variety of vices, I think of little Timmy. But even moreso, I think of little Timmy’s mother (and father who I didn’t see) and wonder if she realizes that she’s “got next?” Does she know that she’s likely rasising the next idiot to be featured on the 11 o’clock news? Probably not. She’s probably of the school of thought that “freedom of expression” and lack of rules will lead to a more creative and successful child. I’m not buying it. I’m #TeamSmash!

You Talk Like a White Girl

[Throwback Piece]

I’m convinced that being black, and “successful,” in America means being at least a little schizophrenic. I consider myself to be black, and “successful,” in America. Yeah, I know. That probably means I’m a little schizophrenic.
My “mental condition” was first brought to my attention back in my early twenties. I was volunteering for an organization that helps under-employed and unemployed 18 to 24 year olds find gainful employment. Volunteers helped youth write resumes, practice interviews and conduct productive job searches. Did I mention that while I was doing this I was just 24 years old? I was teaching my peers.
I volunteered during my lunch hour so I was often dressed in a business suit when I met with the students. One day while conducting a seminar on “Interviewing and Networking” I was interrupted by a brash 22 year old who took pride in informing me that “[I] talk like a white girl!!” Without skipping a beat, and with a decidedly “urban flair,” I responded, “And I make money like a white girl too!” What followed was a short stare down. Chrissy is the champion of the stare down. My record remained intact that day.
The classroom that had been only half listening up to that point was now at full attention. Without me having to specifically address black schizophrenia, they got it. They got that while I was able to speak like them, I was also able to master “The King’s English” in a way that allowed me to maneuver through mainstream America in an attempt to obtain the American Dream. Here I was, the same age as them, dressed well, with an education and a “good job” in corporate America. The typical volunteer with this agency was middle-aged and white. Now they were receiving the message from someone who not only looked like them but was also the same age as them. One student later told me that hearing me deliver the message made it feel like the American Dream was something she could achieve. She even gave me props for being able to “switch it up” when I needed to.
I had just about forgotten about this “schizophrenic” episode until early this morning. I was on the phone, like a teenager, talking into the wee hours of the morning when the person on the other end said, “Damn, what did I do to deserve the ‘corporate voice?'” I hadn’t even realized that I’d slipped into “work speak.” At first I was a little embarrassed. I take pride in being able to switch it up at the drop of a dime. But this had been unintentional. Then I felt stupid for being embarrassed. Why should I be embarrassed that I have a firm grasp of the King’s English? That is after all what my parents taught me. That is after all what helped make me a “success,” right? So here’s to being black, successful and “schizophrenic” in America.

F.T.B.

I sometimes wish ending a friendship in real life were as simple as it is on Facebook.

[Click: “Unfriend”]

[Are you sure you want to unfriend _______? YES or NO}

[Click: YES!!!]

[ _______ has been unfriended.]

Wouldn’t that be awesome? Two simple clicks and you’re rid of the person you no longer want to engage you in conversations you don’t want to have. They will no longer be able to send you invitations to events you don’t want to attend (at least not with them). You won’t have to run into them at your friends’ place. It’s just over!

That’d be great!

Normally when I’m ready for a friendship to be over, I simply “Fade to Black.”(FTB) With the FTB, there’s never any drama. There are never any harsh words that you two can’t come back from. There are no hurt feelings (well, maybe there are, but you’re not around to see them). It’s just over and everyone moves on. At least that’s how it’s supposed to work.

Every now and again, the FTB doesn’t work. The person you’re trying to shake, just won’t go away. They seem not to pick up on the non-verbal cues that you are no longer interested in their company. The fact that you no longer respond to their phone calls, texts and emails seems to be lost on them. The fact that you’ve declined all of their invitations to hangout seems meaningless to them. The fact that you (still) won’t accept their Facebook Friend Request somehow goes right over their heads. And the worst part is when they ask “Did I do something?” You want to respond, “Yes, as a matter of fact you did. You ignored my Fade to Black!!”

I’m not sure who said it, but people often credit Oprah with the quote “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” I believe them. And once I’m a believer, if I don’t like what I’ve seen, I remove myself from the situation. Sometimes I FTB because I catch someone in a lie. Not the kind where it’s possible they were mistaken or misspoke. I’m talking the kind of bold, unsolicited lie that makes your skin crawl. Sometimes I FTB because I think the person is a gossip “A dog that will bring a bone will carry a bone.” (My momma) Again, I’m not talking about an innocent sharing of information, but rather sharing with me intimate details of someone else’s life that would devastate the person if they knew I knew. Sometimes I FTB because the person is too clingy. If you know me, you know that I move like a lone wolf. I know lots of people and I have a good deal of people that I call friends. Yet and still, I am very comfortable all by my lonesome. As such, I’m a little unnerved by people who expect me to become their Siamese twin. Not interested!

So, after the FTB fails and I’m forced to address the situation head on, someone ends up with hurt feelings. And I’m always blamed for the hurt feelings. Sure, by the time I realize my FTB has failed, what little patience and tact I possess has been exhausted. This leads to a harsher than necessary explanation of why I no longer wish to be in the company of the offending party. This leads to the offending party being offended. They usually share their hurt with others and, hence, Chrissy is the bad guy. However, had they just left me alone when I attempted to disappear, all of this could have been avoided.

The moral of the story, kids, is that “When someone shows you who they are, believe them!” When I show you that I’m no longer interested in your friendship, believe me!

Good Manners Are Always En Vogue

I’m no Emily Post.  I’m not even close. But if there’s one thing I learned growing up is that good manners are always en vogue.  I learned that while I might not always have the fanciest or most expensive clothes, what I could always have – good manners.  I assumed all people learned this lesson growing up. And even though I now know that isn’t true, I’m still always shocked when I watch people stumble through life unintentionally committing the occasional etiquette faux pas and, almost always, offending someone. Since I’ve seen this so many times, I thought I’d share a few tips and tricks to successfully navigating the basics of etiquette.

  • When invited into someone’s home as a guest, properly thank the host:
    • Dinner Guest – When you’re a dinner guest in someone’s home, you should always bring something for the host. Even if the host tells you “Just bring your appetite!” bring something anyway.  You don’t go to a restaurant and not leave anything so don’t show up to anyone’s home without leaving something. Bringing a small gift says “I’m appreciative of the invitation,” “Thank you for putting dinner together,” “I was ‘raised right’ so I’m bringing something so I don’t look like Caveman raised by Wooly Mammoths.” It’s just the right thing to do. The gift doesn’t have to be extravagant.  A nice bottle of wine or champagne is always a good choice (unless you’re visiting a teetotaler).  Even if the host doesn’t drink regularly, the wine can be served at other dinner parties.  It’s also a great re-gift gift. If the host is attending a dinner party at someone else’s home, they can always take the bottle of wine. It just works. If you’re on a bit of a budget, a nice handwritten thank you card with a $5 gift card to their favorite coffee shop works too.  Your friends usually know, and understand, your financial situation. The point is not to outdo any of the other guests, the point is to properly express your gratitude for the invitation.
      • If you do bring something edible as a gift to the host, you are NOT allowed to consume it or set it out for general consumption during the event.  The gift is to be left for the host.  If the host decides to open the bottle of wine or serve the box of chocolates during the party, fine. However, under no circumstances are you allowed to open the item or suggest that the item be opened.  It’s just tacky.  You brought it for the host, so let the host decide what to do with it.
      • If you decide to “bring what you drink,” make sure to still bring something for the host and make sure they know that you’ve brought something for them AND something for yourself.  You don’t want to appear accidentally tacky when you crack open your favorite bottle of wine, sit it between you and your plus one and drink the entire bottle by yourselves.
    • Overnight Guest – If someone is gracious enough to allow you to rest your head in their home overnight, say ‘Thank you’ by taking the host out for a meal or, if you’re on a budget, preparing a meal (with groceries you bought). Also, make sure you keep your accommodations tidy. Make the bed and tidy up the bathroom before you leave.  Don’t be the guest who doesn’t get invited back because s/he was ungrateful and sloppy.
  • Text Messages are almost NEVER a proper thank you. If someone buys you a gift, does something nice for you or gets you out of a jam, you should send a handwritten thank you note.  (Sidenote: Keep stationary on hand. I personally have a variety of stationary, some custom, some off the shelf, but all appropriate for writing a ‘Thank You’ note). If someone sends you a gift and you send a text message to say thank you, you’ve almost certainly guaranteed that you will never get another gift from that person.
    • Dating – Just about the only time it’s appropriate to send a ‘Thank you’ text message is following a date. If someone takes you on a date and buys you food or drinks or pays for an activity, you should follow it up with a proper Thank You.  Even if you didn’t like the person and have no intentions of going out with him/her again, sending a simple “Thank you” text shows that you appreciate the effort the other person put into the outing. No one owes you a date.  No one owes you dinner, drinks or activities. It’s a rough economy. Show your gratitude for someone spending their hard earned money on you when they didn’t have to.
  • Cell Phones – Put them away at the dinner table.  It’s one thing to fetch a ringing phone from your pocket to answer it.  It’s another to scan Facebook, Twitter or other social media while dining.  1) You’re not that important; and 2) You’re being rude. If the text, email, tweet or status update is that important, you should have stayed at home so you don’t miss it. In the event that you’re expecting an important call, text or email, inform your company ahead of time so that they know upfront that you’re not being rude for the sake of being rude.

These are just a few of the etiquette transgressions I witness on a daily basis. I’m sure there are hundreds more that you can think of.  Feel free to add them to the comments.

 

Footnote: If you think you’ve offending me by breaking one of these ‘rules,’ don’t apologize.  Let’s just pretend it didn’t happen.  But, by all means, do better next time . . . if you get another chance.

I Like Words

I like words. I’ve always liked words. I’ve been reading since I was three years old (another blog for another day). Maybe that’s why I’m so fond of words – because I’ve been a part of my life for so long. Or maybe I’m just fond of words because I’m an old school prude. Who’s to say?

I text. I text a lot. However, I rarely use “text talk.” I don’t use text talk because . . .

I. LIKE. WORDS!

Sure, I use “LOL,” “LMAO,” and sometimes “IDK,” (I also use “bc” for because if I’m in a hurry). But other than that, I use words. Part of the reason I don’t use “text talk” is because it looks lazy and unintelligent. When I meet someone new and they text me using text talk, I assume they do so because they lack the basic intelligence required to string together a simple sentence. I realize this isn’t always the case. One of my dearest friends insists on “text talking” me. I endure it because I know she’s highly intelligent and just being lazy.

I find text talk particularly annoying when it’s used outside the confines of a text message or iMessage (or BBM for the Neanderthals still using the Blackberry). When I see text talk in emails or in Facebook statuses, I decide it’s because the author is too stupid to know how to formulate a sentence. (I give a little slack for Twitter simply because of the character limits).

I don’t have a proper closing for this blog. I just wanted to rant.

I. HATE. TEXT. TALK.

Goodnight.

Just Let Go of the Reins

About three years ago I was vacationing in the Cayman Islands. One of the things I enjoy doing during vacations is horseback riding.  It’s a great way to view the landscape of a new place.  As is the case in much of the Caribbean, many of the guided horseback tours include a ride along the beach.  Many also have the option of taking the horse into the ocean (the shallow part, obviously).

After completing our land tour, we arrive at the beach and proceed to enter the water. As we’re riding, the guides increase speed slightly as they lead us through the section of water that is roped off for the tour.  The increasing difficulty of the ride leads to members of the group falling from their horses and struggling to get back above water. I watch as each one goes down.  As they do I yell, “Let go of the reins!!” You want them to let go of the reins because the horse doesn’t stop just because the rider has fallen off. So if the rider doesn’t let go of the reins s/he will be dragged along the ocean floor and, perhaps, get trampled by the horse as it continues to follow the group, as it is trained to do.

Fifteen or twenty minutes into the tour, I am still on my horse. Soon, I’m jerked backwards as my horse takes off at full speed. I’m startled but am able to gain my balance and stay on the horse as it wildly chases the horse in front of it. Eventually, I find myself sliding from the horse and splashing into the water while . . . holding on to the reins!

Intellectually, I know I should let go.  I know this. However, when you’re underwater and flipping over again and again, you lose your sense of up and down.  Your feet can’t find the ocean’s bottom even though the water is only 4 1/2 feet deep.  Your eyes have difficulty distinguishing light and dark on a cloudy day when there’s no sun to guide you.  You’re completely disoriented and the only thing you can firmly grasp is . . . the reins.  As a result, you hold on to the reins as if your life depends on it.

In life, we sometimes hold onto things as if our lives depend on them. Many of the things we’re holding onto can’t actually save us.  In fact, many of these things have the power to destroy us if we let them.  Holding on to things like anger, resentment, fear, envy or stress can, quite literally, kill us.  Intellectually, we know that holding onto these things isn’t good for us.  So why do we continue to hold on? Sometimes it’s because we’re stubborn.  Sometimes it’s because we simply don’t know how to let go. We’ve been carrying some baggage for so long that it actually feels normal to us. We’ve lived with stress or regret or defeat for so long that we think that this must be our lot in life and that we’re destined to continue to live the remainder of our lives with these burdens.

This isn’t true for any of us.

We all have the power to let go of the reins and save ourselves.We all have the right to live lives free of the many and varied burdens we pick up along our journey. We simply have to figure out how to do it.  Sometimes we can figure this out on our own.  Oftentimes, we need help  figuring out how to let go. This was the case for me as I was being dragged along the bottom of the ocean.  I was telling myself, “Let go.” I was hearing the guides yelling “LET GO!” I could hear the messages. I understood the messages.  However, I simply could not figure out how to get my fingers to open and let go of the reins.  After what seemed like hours, but was in fact just a few seconds, one of the guides reached down and gently tugged the reins.  I’m not even certain he had a firm grasp on them. But the slight tug was just enough to get my hands to open. It was enough to get me to distinguish up from down. It was enough to get me to plant my feet firmly on the ground and stand again. That’s all it took. A slight tug was all I needed to do the things that I always knew to do but simply hadn’t had the courage to do.

I relay this story to people fairly frequently because I think it’s a good illustration of how we hold onto things in our everyday lives that have the power to destroy us. Sometimes saving ourselves, our sanity, our happiness is as simple as letting go.  So, just let go of the reins and see what happens.