Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Ooooh girl! That's my SONG! - "It Takes Two" Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock (1988)

So, I recently became a member of this group of people who all really LOVE hip hop. But, before I could join, I had to answer a few questions. I was asked when I knew that hip hop had become a part of my life. As I reflected on my answer, I recognized that I never had a lightbulb moment about hip hop. In my life, it just always... was. I don't remember a time without hip hop. I was born at the very end of the 70s and by that time, hip hop had already taken up residence in my household thanks to my older brother. I remember listening to Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick rap about synchronizing the time on your Gucci watch and bobbing my head along to the music before I even knew what Gucci was! And, I was humming along to Salt & Pepa and "shakin my thang" in elementary school. It's always been a part of my life and it always will be.

And so it was that I was recently at a party where DJ Alizay (my FAVE) was spinning nothing but bangers all night long and I sweated out my very fresh relaxer within a matter of minutes. If you're damp when you leave a party, you know you had a good time! What I recognized was, everytime I would hear the opening strains of a new jam, I'd look at my homegirl and shout "oooh girl! that's my SONG!" and my hips would start shaking pretty much involuntarily.

Wouldn't you know it? That inspired a blog post. Ha! So, here it is. "It Takes Two" by Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock. Lemme tell yall, this is the first rap song that I ever knew ALL the words to. The year was 1988 and I was 9 years old and in the 3rd grade at Woodlin Elementary in Silver Spring, MD. This song pretty much marks the beginning of my love affair with hip hop. The year was 1988 and I was 9 years old. And every time I hear this song, no matter where I am, I always turn to my girls and yell out, "ooooh girl! that's my SONG!".


Btw, where are they now?? Hmmmm... If anyone knows, fill me in.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

It's Called SELF-Esteem for a Reason/Living Life Like It's Golden

Like Usher, I also have a confession (corny, but it works!): Sometimes, I have low self-esteem.

Yes, I understand that having low self-esteem is not exactly the type of thing that you freely admit. But I am trying to be more honest with myself as I approach my third decade of life (yikes!).

Now, sometimes I have very, very good days. And on those days, I’ll walk into a spot and repeat a mantra that goes something like, “I am the shit. No chick in here has anything on me. I have got it going on and nobody can tell me anything different.” Yes, those are the good days when I feel as though I am looking good and am in the mood for acting bad.

But, those days don’t happen that often. I am always feeling insecure about something. Those of you who know me personally know that I’m short. But the funny thing is that on most days I don’t FEEL short. But then there are those days when I do. and those are not “good” days. On those days I feel more like “Wow, I’m really short and I look weird and everyone is looking at me because I am short and weird looking.” (Yes, these are actual thoughts that I have about myself. Pathetic, isn’t it?)

And, of course, I have my cheerleaders. Those girlfriends of mine who are constantly saying things like, “Brown Girl you know you’ve got so much to offer. You’re smart, you’re ambitious, blah, blah, blah.” While I adore them for building me up, I have to admit that sometimes it does nothing to get me out of my funk. As one friend says, “Low self-esteem is the devil.”

We, as women, tend to blame self-esteem on everyone else. We say things like “My father never told me I was beautiful, so that’s why I have low self-esteem,” or “I’ve been cheated on so many times that now I have low self-esteem.”

But, Katt Williams said it best when he said something to the effect of, “Talkin about [men] fucked up your self esteem. [Woman], it's called SELF-esteem. It's esteem of your fucking self!” Truer words were never spoken. I am constantly reminding myself that I am the creator of my own self-image. The image that I create and the energy that I project into the world are what others will use to define me. And if I don’t feel good about myself, nobody else will either. This is so important for us to remember when we get down in the dumps or start coveting what other people have.

One of my biggest self-esteem issues has to do with my body image. As I mentioned before, I am short. And I’m also carrying around a few extra pounds. Now, I am trying to do something about that, but as I’ve mentioned (repeatedly) I am a work in progress, so that is, well… in progress! But I remember one interaction that I had with Jeremy on one of my “bad” days that made me feel oh so good.

Jeremy and I had a lot of bad days, but we had a lot of good days also. One day, I was feeling particularly fat and inadequate and was pretty much stomping around in a bad mood. To make me feel better, Jeremy took me out to dinner at a nice restaurant downtown. (Now I should mention that at this point, I was heavier than I’ve ever been because Jeremy was ALWAYS taking me out to dinner!) Our waitress was a pretty cute girl who seemed to have eyes for my boyfriend. Jeremy wasn’t really paying her any mind since he was being very attentive to me that night. And I remember a conversation that we had in the car on the way home from dinner. I asked him if he had noticed our waitress, and her perky breasts, and round brown. He said no he hadn’t noticed because he’d been too into making me happy. I knew I wasn’t being fair, but I just kept going.

He pulled the car over, took my hands into his, and looked into my eyes and said, “Look, I just want you to know that YOU might not be happy with your body, but I am. It might not be perfect, but I love it because it’s YOURS. Ok?” he asked.

“Ok,” I responded, sniffling.

I looked out the window to keep him from seeing the satisfied smile on my face. I knew I was impossible on my “bad” days, but he put up with it. And the way that he reassured me seemed so genuine and his love felt so unconditional at that moment. I know it’s not right to put so much stock in other peoples’ opinions, but it felt good for my boyfriend to validate me and my appearance. I often look back fondly on that particular moment that we shared. It was one of the times when his love felt unconditional…

Sometimes, I also feel like my self-esteem is low because of all the blows that my ego has taken in relationships. I’ve been honest with you about having been cheated on by several boyfriends. The first time I’d been cheated on, I was 13 years old. I had dated Brad (this is his real name, by the way) for two whole months, which is in actuality a long-term relationship when you’re in middle school. He told me he loved me AND he was the first boy I ever French kissed. I thought we’d be together forever. We went away for summer vacation and things were perfect between us. Two weeks later, he met another girl at summer camp and decided that he couldn’t be my boyfriend anymore. I remember that Valentina had to deliver the news and she tried to do it as delicately as she could. My ‘tween heart was broken! A little piece of my heart died that day. I couldn’t believe how easily he could throw away all that we shared! Even though I remained hopeful that I would find “love” again, I was cynical and bitter about men and their ability to commit. I know it seems insignificant, seeing as though it was a middle school relationship. But it was my first encounter with puppy love. Before that happened, I believed that anything was possible and I thought that everything that guys said to me about the way they felt was the actual truth. My experience with Brad was my first real adult wakeup call and it made me feel shitty about myself. And of course, the disappointment continued. No need to explain since you already know the stories of Mr. Ex and Jeremy. And when I was a freshman in high school that boyfriend cheated on me, too!

My insides carry all those scars that I earned in those relationships. Even though each relationship broke me down a little bit, I somehow emerged stronger each time I endured the hurt. And although I am proud of myself for making it through those relationships, sometimes the war injuries that I’ve sustained rear their ugly heads and make me feel a little down about myself. Like, obviously, something is wrong with me if nearly EVERY dude I’ve ever seriously dated has cheated on me. Clearly, there is something wrong with ME. I’M the common denominator. I internalized those thoughts and, even though I usually feel confident in myself, sometimes, residual feelings pop up and make me feel bitter and unsure of myself. When that happens, well… those are my rough days.

I made a confession about my rough days to a fairly new and very wise friend and she shared a metaphor with me that changed my life. I will expand on it a bit for the purposes of the blog, but will preserve the spirit and integrity of her original words.

She said: We are like gold. We all have to go through a process to become refined if we want to look like the gold we see in the jewelry store. But when gold is first discovered in the ground, it doesn’t look the way that we know gold to look. The way that we see it when it’s in the store, it’s shiny and pretty. But, if the gold could talk and we gave it a compliment on it’s fine appearance it would say, “Girl, you don’t know what I had to go through to look like this! I had to be pulled, tugged, pushed, ground down, and polished. But obviously, there was a purpose for me because someone took the time to dig me out of the ground… and here I am! That process, and all the pulling and tugging and pushing hurt, but that process – as tough as it was – it made me beautiful to you. But thing is, I was always beautiful to my Creator. He knew my purpose and he saw me like this – all shiny and pristine – from the moment He took me out of the ground.”

That’s all there is to it. And can I get an “Amen”?!

Those words spoke to me in a way that I had never been spoken to before. In that moment I realized that if I ever felt a lack of self-esteem, I should see myself through the eyes of my Creator. I know that I am somebody special because God don’t make no junk! That’s something I used to say when I was little. I know it’s kind of corny, but it’s a mantra that I need to incorporate back into my daily living.

If ever you feel as though you’re not everything you could or should be, just think of that shiny gold. If you’re ever feeling beat up, less than perfect, hurt, angry, or bitter, think of that gold. It didn’t always LOOK like precious metal, but the process that it’s Creator took it through, made it beautiful. Life is a process and as we progress through it, the bumps and bruises and life experiences – both good and bad – are what make us who we are. We are the sum of our experiences. From the moment we are put here, we have a purpose and a destiny and it’s up to us to make the best of what we are given in life and to understand that although we might not look perfect on the outside, to our Creator we are that pristine and polished piece of gold that is waiting to emerge at the end of the process.

If we think of ourselves in that way, how could we ever be short on self-esteem?

Monday, June 09, 2008

Penis Envy/The Power of the "Outtie"

Oh man! The Brown Girl has been on serious hiatus! I apologize for that, but I appreciate all those who are sticking with me and still reading after this long break. So, I started a new job, which is fabulous, but is a serious drain on my social life. I have time to do NOTHING anymore – even blog! But, yesterday, I turned 29 (yay, me!) and decided that I’d take a Monday off just to recuperate from the weekend. (The weekend was FAB. I’ll have to blog about it sometime…) With my day off, I’m catching up on a bunch of things I love to do, including getting back to blogging. I’m going to try to write a couple of posts so that I’ll have things to post in the days to come when I won’t be able to touch my computer for non-work-related business. We’ll see how that goes! I won’t promise to blog more often anymore because obviously I have a tough time keeping that promise, but I sincerely hope to make more regular appearances in the days to come. Happy reading!

Some days, I wish I had been born a man. Now, that is kind of a strange statement coming from someone who considers herself to be a pretty modern woman. I think women can totally do anything they put their minds to. We can be doctors, lawyers, astronauts, chefs, artists, investment bankers, etc. But when I really think about it, even in 2008, this is still a man’s world and men are STILL getting over in a way that women will never be able to.

Take dating for instance (you knew this was where this was going, didn’t you?). Women have it HARD out here. Sure, if a woman looks a certain way she can have just about any guy that she wants. But even THAT is no guarantee. I was recently watching a movie with Halle Berry in it and realized that she has been cheated on and abused by so many different men! Now, if a man cheats on HALLE BERRY, one of the most beautiful women in the world, then the rest of us do not stand a chance! By all accounts, she’s a stunner. And, yet, her partners decided that there was someone else they’d rather tap than keep it at home and tap Halle on a regular basis. That is INSANITY to me.

Something happens in male/female relationships where the men end up getting the power. They are obviously dominant in most situations and, if you are dating an Alpha male, you’ve got an even lesser chance of maintaining a handle on the relationship because they are dominant to the 10th power. You see, something happens where – at first – the man is pursuing the woman pretty hard. He pulls out all the stops. There is nothing he wouldn’t do for her. He calls all the time, buys her pretty things, pays for every meal, plans romantic dates, compliments her, and just generally makes her feel like the world revolves around her. But, proceed with caution, ladies, because this does not last long. The second that he thinks that he’s got you under his spell, BOOM. All that jazz I mentioned above just disappears. At that point, it’s too late and you think if you could just do this or that then things will go back to being the way that they once were. Oh, if you could just lose 7 lbs and be back to the weight you were at when the two of you met, then he’ll start being his Old Self. Um, maybe if you change jobs, he’ll be so proud of you that he’ll start showering you with attention again. And here and there he’ll surprise you with little unexpected appearances by his Old Self just to string you along and give you hope that this behavior will somehow miraculously become the norm again. But here’s the catch… he’s already gotten into your head. He’s made you think that it’s YOUR fault that things have changed. And at the point that you begin doubting yourself, the power has shifted and now the entire relationship revolves around HIM.

Uh oh.

I had a friend in college, Antoine. Antoine was a pretty cool dude and we were strictly platonic. He once told me that guys only have to put in two weeks of courting to get a woman hooked.

“Then,” he said, “you can pretty much treat her any way you want to for the remainder of the relationship, because all she will dwell on is how nice you were to her during those first couple of weeks. She’ll always think THAT was the ‘Real You’ and that is enough to keep her interested until you’re done.”

Now, obvi Antoine was also somewhat of an asshole when it came to relationships. But what he said was real talk. I can’t tell you how many times this has happened to my friends and me. We think that we’ve really got a nice guy who genuinely believes that the relationship is not all about him. And then, the power shifts…

Or maybe, we never really had the power at all… I mean, think about it. If the first couple weeks or – maybe if you’re lucky – months are all a setup, then the guy held the power from jump. How depressing! It must be lovely to be able to be in this position. To not be the one setup to fall for the okey-doke.

Oh, to be a man!

I was talking to my sister in law today about relationships and how there is a guy that I really care about…

Ok. Fuck it. I love him.

Anyway, so I’m telling my sister in law about said individual and about how he has decided (Notice who has the power??! The one with the “innie” or the “outtie”?) that we should be friends because he is not ready to settle down.

Sis says, “Wow. That really sucks and that must be SO frustrating. Your brother and I were talking about how there are so many smart, beautiful, self-sufficient, ambitious women out here for men to choose from, but they’d rather run around like fools than to settle down with one of them.”

Eureka! She’s got something here.

But here’s what I say: I think it’s the problem of overchoice. It’s precisely BECAUSE there are so many wonderful women out here – a surplus of them – that men don’t know how to act. This seems to be an epidemic that guys out here are trying to screw around with as many women as possible and would rather do that than settle down with a good one now. They take for granted the fact that there are so many good women out here to be had. They know that if they screw around now there will still be a couple hundred thousand left over that they can settle down with whenever THEY get ready.

Damn. What a great position to be in! You have so many options, why choose just one? Why not just mess around with as many women as you can until you get tired… just exhausted… and then, go out and pick one of the other women who are still single at 40 and make one of them happy? Finally.

It’s like picking apples. You go to an orchard and look up in wonderment at all the beautiful, red apples on the tree and think, where do I begin? At first, you pick the apple that’s closest to you because it’s the easiest to reach. You take a bite, it’s not that sweet, so you toss it and move on to the next one. The next time, you see a bright red beauty towards the top of the tree, so you position yourself to get to it and then you pick that one and you taste it and… ugh! That apple had a rotten spot that you couldn’t see from where you were standing. So you toss that one. You keep testing them out, taking bites, and then tossing the ones you don’t want, until you get tired. Eventually, you find a nice looking one with a decent taste and you go home with it, satisfied – for now – that you tried enough apples to know that this one was a pretty decent choice.

I mean, ladies, that’s what it’s like for men out here. Fucking apple picking. And, unfortunately, we’re the fruit on the tree waiting to get picked! What a shitty position to be in!

That’s why, TODAY, I wish I had a penis.

Check back with me tomorrow, though… my feelings may have changed.