No Scary Age for Me!!

I don’t have a “scary” age.  I’ve never had one and don’t ever plan to have one.  I am, however, in the age group where many of my peers are at their scary age, quickly approaching their scary age or they’re depressed because they’ve long ago passed their scary age.  Let me explain the concept of the “scary age” for you non-Sex and the City viewers.  The scary age is the age at which women start to panic if they haven’t married and/or had children and it usually coincides with a woman’s biological clock.  The scary age is viewed as the entrance to spinsterhood.  If you aren’t married with kids by the time you hit your scary age then you may as well start making doilies and buying cats.

The main reason I’m opposed to setting a scary age is because women who are nearing their scary age become neurotic.  They do some of the most insane things you’ll ever hear of.  Take for instance the 46-year-old woman on the We TV show “Bridezillas.”  She had an adult daughter but had never been married.  On the reality show she married a 38-year-old “salesman.”  She paid for the entire wedding with no assistance from him.  This “salesman” was away from home for four months at a time because he was traveling “on business.”  I’m not the only one who thought this sounded a bit suspect.  Her adult daughter and sister both thought it was suspicious that his job didn’t even allow him to come home on the weekends. When he was in town, his hometown also, he lived with her, drove her car (because he didn’t have one) and used her cell phone (because he didn’t have one).  Let’s just ignore the housing situation.  What kind of salesman doesn’t have a car or cell phone? Most companies supply these items. And even if the company doesn’t supply the car, the employee is required to own a vehicle.  Despite the protests of her family the 46 year-old ignored her fiancé’s shortcomings and married him anyway. She married him despite the fact that he first failed to show up at their wedding, leaving her at the alter.  He finally showed up at her house the next day, apologized and they went to Vegas to get married.  I don’t set a scary age because I don’t want to be so desperate to make it happen that I settle for a “man” like this one.

I also don’t want to be the chick who shows up to a relationship with a timeline.  (The following is a true story)  A 32 year old woman gave up a, by all accounts, perfectly good man after a year and a half of dating because he was not ready to propose to her by a given date and married to her within six months of that date.  After having dated for a year she informed him that a proposal would be required by the 18-month mark, exactly six months from the date of the conversation.  When the date arrived, and he had not purchased a ring or made a proposal, she presented him with a prepared statement advising him that if he was not willing to make the proposal that day, and commit to a wedding date on that same day, that she would be leaving the relationship.  He let her know that he would not be making the proposal.  They ended their relationship that very day.

Then there’s the woman I refer to as “Atomic Clock.” This woman would meet a new guy, fall in love and become “engaged” within six months.  I use quotation marks because there was never a ring. In my mind, men aren’t serious until they’ve spent money on a ring. Within three months of the “engagement” the couple would break up and she would start the cycle all over again. It was as if she were so desperate to find a husband, any husband, that she would blindly jump into relationships in the hopes that she might finally be able to check off “get married” on her list of things to do.

I don’t fully blame this outlandish behavior on the neurotic women.  I partly blame society and the pressures it puts on women to be married with children.  I also blame the socio-economic factors, and plain old ignorance, that have created the ever-dwindling pool of suitable men.  When you subtract the men who are: already married, in jail, gay, bisexual (aka gay in waiting), unemployed, uneducated or addicted, there are but 3 or 4 men left for us single chicks to fight over.  As a result of the relatively few, decent men available, women are putting up with all kinds of unimaginable nonsense.

I watch these women and I’m sad for them.  I’m sad for the ones who’ve settled for less than they deserve and are miserable in their relationships.  I’m sad for the ones I watch cling to a piece of a man just so they can say they have one. And I’m even sadder for the ones who desperately want to be mothers so they’re making a go at it with men who aren’t good people or good boyfriends and will likely be even worse fathers. And even more than being sad for them, I am determined not to become one of them.

Change or Die

I’m watching a mini-marathon of “Interior Therapy with Jeff Lewis” on Bravo. There’s a man on the show who has lived in the same house for all of his 37 years on earth. He grew up there, never left home and inherited the house after his father died and continues to live there. He’s moved in his new wife and believes it’s absolutely normal to continue to live in the house his father built for the rest of his life.  He expects his new wife to live in this house and raise their children there.  He also expects that his wife not be able to make any updates to the house. While he was kind enough to grant her permission to replace the carpet in one room, she’s forbidden to make any other changes, including donating his dead father’s clothes, which seem to litter the entire house.

This episode fascinates me for a couple of different reasons. It fascinates me because this grown man thinks it’s okay to live in a castle. Oh, did I forget to mention that? The father built an actual castle, complete with a moat. There are shields and armor everywhere. All of the décor is dark, heavy woods and metals . . . exactly what you’d expect to see in a castle. And this grown man thinks it’s ok to live in a fairytale castle at 37 years old.  I find his wife, who I’m almost positive is a former contestant on America’s Next Top Model, to be a bit delusional as well.  This man was living in this castle when they met. He’s clearly not good with change, and admits as much. So why would she expect that he would all of a sudden change just because they have a piece of paper saying they’re stuck together? I’ll save her for a future blog.

I am always confused by people who are afraid of change. I’ve moved a lot during my career.  Oftentimes, I moved to places where I didn’t know a single soul.  I once had a high school friend say to me, “I don’t know how you do that, just go somewhere and you don’t know nobody.  Wouldn’t be me!” (sic) For once in my life I exercised a bit of restraint and avoided saying “And it wouldn’t be me stuck in this town with no education working a dead-end job, married to a bum and spending my spare time bickering with his sidepieces and other baby mamas.” [Sometimes I go too far] Instead I said, “I’d rather go out and see what the world has to offer than sit in one place and wonder what could have been if I hadn’t been afraid.”

I often wonder how people get this way.  What happens to a person to cause them to become so complacent? What makes them afraid to know if they’re capable of more? I fully understand the concept of being “happy with what you have.” But what about when you’re not happy? If you’re unhappy in your current situation, why not try something new? The man on the show suffered from depression. He was finally able to admit later in the show that he hadn’t realized that just living in the house used up so much of his energy, that he wasn’t able to properly focus on anything else. This is a completely understandable explanation.  But I still wonder about all the people I know who complain about their current situation but refuse opportunities that could change their current situations just because it forces them outside of their comfort zones.

I am a firm believer in the notion that “the only constant is change.” I’m able to easily adapt to most situations and either find a way to be okay with the change or create another change that I can be okay with. When we look back over time, we see that those creatures that were not able to adapt to new environments ceased to exist.  In my estimation, either we change or die.  Perhaps not literally (immediately) but we kill off an important part of ourselves. We kill off the part of ourselves that allows us to challenge ourselves.  And once that part of us is dead, we might as well go sit in the cemetery and wait to be buried. You’re not really living anyway, so why not?

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!

Why Are You Supportive of Gay Rights?

[This was the worst kept secret ever when it happened.  I’m not sure if I’m even allowed to talk about it now. So for the sake of not offending anyone by sharing *my* experience, I’ve changed names and associations. It’s just easier this way . . . maybe.]

I pride myself on not having closed-minded, intolerant friends. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that someone close to me wasn’t necessarily tolerant of gays. I’ve seen this person interact with my gay friends.  There’s never been a time when this person behaved inappropriately around my friends or said anything to make them feel uncomfortable. (I don’t play that. My friends don’t have to be friends, but they have to be respectful to one another.) So I was shocked when during a conversation a couple of years ago it was revealed that they weren’t particularly supportive of gays or gay rights. As the conversation went on, I was asked “Why are you so supportive of gay rights?” (for those who don’t know, I’m not gay).  I explained it the best way I could . . .

Growing up, we had a family friend who visited frequently. He would play with us kids, bring us cool gifts for birthdays and Christmas and buy us ice cream off the ice cream truck when the parents wouldn’t. He was cool and fun and we all loved him. He always had some story to tell about his adventures. He was one of those grownups you wanted to hang out with when you grew up because you just knew you’d have a blast. Of all of the family and friends that visited, he was our hands-down favorite.  

When I was 14 he became terribly ill.  There was always some new ailment that I’d never heard of with a name I could barely pronounce. Even though I didn’t know what was wrong with him, it was abundantly clear that he wasn’t long for this world.  

He died in August of 1990.   

As we prepared for the funeral, I began to hear whispers about his death. I tried to figure out what really happened from these conversations, but it was difficult to say the least. I was a child and children were to be seen and not heard. We were also often told to “stay out of grown folks’ business!” If you know black women, particularly old, black women, you know that they like to whisper the worst parts of gossip.  This made it even more difficult for me to determine what happened.  One day, as I sat in a corner, I overheard a conversation: 

“You know he had . . . [whispers] . . . that AIDS.”  

“I heard! You know, he was . . . [whispers] . . . that way.” 

“Giiirrrllll, I know!” 

              If you didn’t know, “that way” is a colloquialism for “gay.” 

I had no idea that he was gay.  All I knew what that he was cool and fun, told great stories and brought me gifts. I also knew that he’d gone to bat for one of my family members when he thought they’d been wronged by someone. (I wasn’t supposed to know this. It’s one of those stories that got told without the teller realizing that children were nearby.) I’m not sure that at that point I fully understood what it meant to be gay. What I did understand was that lot of adults weren’t okay with it.  I wasn’t sure why they weren’t ok with it.  I was, however, sure that these adults thought that gays were bad people and destined for hell. I was sure many of these people were going to hell too. I thought maybe they were upset with the fact that they’d have to spend all of eternity with people they didn’t like.  

By the time I realized he was gay, I already loved him.  I already knew he was a good person. Because I knew these things, was absolutely certain of these things, I knew that the adults who’d labeled all gays as bad and destined for hell, were absolutely, positively, dead-ass wrong!  

So that was my explanation as to why I’m supportive of gays and gay rights. Although I grew up hearing (not from my parents) that gays were bad I had first-hand information disproving this theory. For me it was that simple. I could prove that not all gays were bad people. I further explained to my friend that what other people did, or who they loved, was none of my business.  I asked the questions: Does someone being gay impact your life in any way? Does them being gay cost you any money? Does someone else’s homosexuality adversely impact your ability to provide for yourself? Does it adversely impact your ability to find happiness? If the answers to all of these questions is “no,” then why do you even care?

There was silence.

The person then said, “I guess you’re right.” A mind was changed that day. We’ve had subsequent conversations over the years about this topic and I’ve since learned that not only was a mind changed, but a heart was changed. That’s why I’m sharing this story.  Hopefully, it will help others to change their hearts and minds.

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.

Who is Riley Cooper?

Who is Riley Cooper? The answer: someone whose name I didn’t know two weeks ago.  I had no clue who this man was two weeks ago but in the time since his story broke, his name has been a constant on my Twitter feed, Facebook timeline and favorite ESPN podcasts.  I posted the following status on my own Facebook timeline a couple of days ago:

“The Philadelphia Eagle’s locker room appears to be divided. Could you get past a co-worker who was caught on tape using insensitive language (re: race, gender, sexual orientation, etc)? I can (and have). I [go] o work to make money, not friends. As long as you keep your hands off of me, I’m good. I’m very well equipped to verbally defend myself when needed. So say what you want. Just be prepared for what comes next.”

I had several interesting comments. Some felt that the other team’s defensive lines would serve as karma for Mr. Cooper’s insensitive words. Others thought they’d have a difficult time working side by side with Riley Cooper because of what he’d said.  Not me.

I’ve had a job for most of my life.  I’ve been working for 22 years. I don’t get up every morning and go to a job because I don’t have anything better to do. (I happen to really enjoy what I do, however, if I hit the PowerBall . . . deuces!)  I go to a job because I have goals and aspirations that require the funding gainful employment provides. I work so that I can live – not the other way around. I work to support my real life, the life where the people I love, and who love me, reside.  As such, I can work with people who don’t love me.  I can work with people I don’t love.  I can work with people who hold views that are in direct contradiction to my own views. I can work with people who I think are soulless human beings.  I can work with people for whom I hold zero respect.  Why? Because MY dreams, MY goals and MY aspirations are bigger than all of them.  My personal goals and well-being are far more important to me than a person to whom I will likely never speak once we no longer work together. So why would I let someone so incredibly insignificant to me adversely impact my livelihood? I wouldn’t!  Plain and simple.  I’m not going to let some idiot get between me and what I have planned for my life.  Stay stupid my friend.  Stay.  Stupid. I’ve got a life to live and goals to reach.