Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The World We've Made

We often wonder why people are so cold, but at the same time we applaud and reward the very behavior we question.

Current television shows (which, like it or not, are a gauge of a society's "cultural" leanings) are more popular when they have the meanest, most ignorant, snarkiest people showcased. "American Idol" has Simon Cowell, right? (And I am not bashing him, but his "honest" and oftentimes hurtful critiques are a centerpiece of the show.) I was kind of stunned to see a show all about a "Bad Girls Club." I mean, really? Seriously? Yep. There are fan pages up for them all overr.

One show that I am guilty of watching on a pretty regular basis (mostly with the same horrified fascination that I watch strange things happen in grocery stores or at public events) is "The Real Housewives." All of them - New York, Atlanta and, my all-time favorite, Orange County. This is a show where members are replaced if they don't create enough crazy strife & drama. (The latest "Housewife" to exit on the O.C. version is Jeanna. She didn't want to play with the "mean girls" anymore. Hah! Good for her is what I say. But I will be watching to see if she pops up on another Bravo show - say, Jeanna of Beverly Hills...)

It's not just in the "entertainment" arena where negative behavior is rewarded. In the workplace, in order to succeed (not all the time, but mostly so), you have to be a little bit brutal to gain respect. People with any kind of sensitivity or a lack of experience in dealing with cut-throats are looked at as not having a "thick skin." And look out if you try to keep a positive attitude.  Do that and you might get confronted by a superior asking "Why are you so damn happy all the time?" (True story, by the way.) And the worst of it? If you insist on not being a jerk for the sake of appearances, a lot of people find your positive outlook suspect. *smh*

So, next time you wonder why this can be a mean, cold world, just remind yourself that we get what we ask for.


Memory Storm (for the 3rd time!)

(1/20/10) This is the third time I am re-posting this one. This time is for my girl Miss Carrie :-) 
Seems like a lot of us over on Facebook had our Mamas on our minds. So...

(2/19/09) I posted this the first time almost 3 years ago. At that time, my life was in a cycle of changes, but they were all good changes: moving to start somewhere fresh, new job, new relationships... This time the changes are more painful and harder to bear, but I realize that, God willing, I will live long enough for these hard times to be just a memory. Hopefully, this is just a valley I'm going through on my way to some peaks.) Anyway, like always, good times or bad, when things are at a extreme for me, I think of my mother. So this is, again, for Mama.

A Memory Storm
Hey y'all. Your girl here is having what I like to call a memory storm. You know, when you have so much going on in your head that things collide & your brain rescues itself from possible system failure by taking a walk in the rain of pleasant memories. Only the memories aren't nice & organized - they just bounce all over the place, like hail or those hard little raindrops that hurt when they hit you.

Memory storm.

Memories about my mama.

Asofetida - I don't know if that's how it's spelled, but I remember Mama saying it's what her mother used to put on her (Mama's) chest when she had a cold or something. Said it stunk to high heaven & probably only worked because the odor scared the germs away.

Urine Shampoo - Mama told me once how, when they were young, her cousin "Bunky" was the only one in the family with short hair (do y'all remember "In Living Color" where one of the characters talked about folk & one of her lines was about a woman with short hair: "hair so shawt you can read her thoughts!"?) and someone told her that it would grow if she washed it in her urine. This fool saved her pee in a big old jar & once a week, she'd pour the urine on it. I don't know what that old pee must've smelled like, but Mama says Bunky grew enough hair in a few weeks to snatch up into a rubber band. She might've grown more hair if "Aunt Jack" hadn't made her stop with the pee shampoos.

Bacon Grease Lotion - Mama says that if they ran out of Jergens or Vaseline, she and her cousins would use bacon grease (and you know she meant that big jar of "drippings" that sat on the stove in an old Folgers can) instead. One time, one of her cousins oiled up and headed off to work. She was running late, so she short-cut it through someone's back yard. "Someone" had some dogs. Dogs smelled the bacon grease. Cousin had to pull the Wilma Rudolph out of her soul and book like the wind. I guess she was leaping fences like somebody had bet money on her. (I suppose she made it away from the dogs. Mama never said. We were both laughing too hard for her to finish that story.)

Sooty Beauty - Back in the day (Mama's day), there weren't a lot of readily available cosmetics for "women of color." Most of my mother's family has LOTS of color & they go from black as midnight (some of them with grey eyes that gave me serious nightmares & this is before colored contacts!) to Light as Vanessa Williams. Most fall in the middlin' to dark category. The lighter-complexioned folk could get away with over the counter lipsticks & blushes and all that. My mother and the rest had to work something else out. So what did they do? Mama says that they'd find the darkest lipstick (usually some kind of slut-red shade) and they could find, then mix in some soot. Yep. Soot from the bottom of pots or burnt wood... The soot would darken up the lipstick enough to compliment a sister with deep roots. (Another time, Mama told me that there were some cosmetics for black women. These were sold door-to-door or could be ordered from ads in the back of romance magazines. A long time ago, someone sent me an old copy of a black romance mag & I saw an ad for "Lucky Heart Cosmetics." Somehow, I picture this as one of the places Mama would have found her makeup when she was young.)

"Busting" a part - My mother was extremely honest. If she didn't know you well, but didn't like something about you, she'd be polite about telling you. If she knew you well - or "owned" you as she did her children - she'd skip politeness & just get to the damn point. (Mama's bossiness with a person went up with her level of approval of them. I could always tell a friend of mine was "in" with my mama the minute she went from inviting them to "come on in and have a seat" to telling them "bring your ass on in here and sit down, boy. That couch ain't gone bite your ass." Most guys who made it past being like by Mama were keepers as far as I was concerned.) One time, I thought it would be cute to wear my hair with a part down the very center. Mama didn't think it was cute. When I came out to rescue a date from being scared into incontinency by Mama, she took one look at my head and asked, "Why you got your hair busted down the middle with that part, looking like Sista Tutta?" (I have no idea who "Sista Tutta" is & I didn't ask. I was too busy sliding back into the bathroom to get that part out of my hair. And, no, I didn't "keep" the guy I had the date with. He laughed a little too damned hard at Mama's comments.)

TPV Perfume - (This crossed my mind when I did my "favorite perfume" on the ABC's yesterday.) When I was younger, I wasn't allowed to wear make-up (don't forget my "holiness" background), and perfume was too extravagant. BUT - I knew I had hit a milestone of "getting grown" when Mama let me wear TPV to a school "dance" (aka: a bunch of kids standing against the wall in the gym and pretending not to notice each other while music played). Talcum powder and vanilla extract. Yep. I didn't get to buy "Heaven Sent" (or whatever it was called), but I sure thought I was some hot stuff when I wiped that cotton ball of vanilla across my shoulders and then puffed on some powder. Shoot. Too bad the only boy who got close enough to smell it was the boy handing out the plastic cups at the punchbowl.

Chewing tar - This falls into that category of "country health" stuff. I can't even lay this on my mama's generation & end it there because she passed it down to us. Until I was about fourteen (right around the time I was leaving my small town life), I - and all my cousins, play & real - chewed tar. I don't remember where it came from. My mama and aunt would have it to hand out to us. It was clean little pieces & shiny where it had been broken or cut into bite sizes. We'd gnaw on that tar like dogs on rawhide. Mama always said it was good for the teeth. And I have to say, I always had great teeth - until the Air Force let their dentists practice on all of us.

Wow. Memory storm. Mama on the mind.

Believe it or not, I owe almost all of my current manuscripts (the ideas, the characters, the settings - everything) to these memories. Of course, I guess most writers will say the same thing.

Speaking of writers - be sure to check out the new link on the left. John Baker, out of the UK, writes mysteries & we've exchanged links. (John - I'm SO coveting the cover design on your books - just beautiful! - & I can't wait to read these.)

(1/20/10) Can't believe I forgot this one in previous posts... 
Hot Toddy (?) Remedy - This was a concoction of really hot, really black tea with some liquor tossed in. Mama would give it to me for my, ahem, cramps. I joke with my friends now that I don't know if the cramps went away or if I was just too drunk to notice. (And, BTW, I never did become much of a drinker. Just ask any of the ladies who were with me on a particularly hot Mother's Day outing when I experienced something called "Saki Bombers" for the first time. I definitely got bombed...)