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I Cannot Find My Shoes!



I recently made the leap into home ownership. I figured by the time you pass thirty you better start planting roots somewhere, even if it’s not in the plot of land you always envisioned for yourself. The whole home buying process can be a nightmare, so I’ll skip all the gory, boring details, but at the end of the day I had the home I wanted, in the neighborhood I wanted, at just the time I wanted it. I should have been happy and my hand should have stung from all the patting on my back it was doing, but instead I was flummoxed because I was going out and I couldn't find my shoes.
I couldn't find my shoes, the cute black ones with just the right amount of heel and toe. It was buried somewhere in the boxes and bags that were almost too numerous to count. Despite everything that was going right with me, I couldn't find my shoes and my life was a disaster and after a while I had to ask myself, with so much going right, why was I so obsessed with what was going wrong?
It is a dangerous thing to never be satisfied. Sure, it's healthy to want to do more and be more, but it’s not healthy to compare myself to a storyline I created years ago when I didn't even know who I really was. See, in my mind the big steps are always the simplest. The results unfold like a novel written by me and of course after some trial and tribulations I make a brilliant success of my life in all areas and live happily ever after. Getting older though has made me start doubting myself and as I FEEL time passing by all I can think of is what I haven't accomplished and damn it, I cannot find my shoes!
It’s almost self-indulgent to think about not finding ones shoes when there is so much suffering in the world. Babies are dying, never growing into their heels, buried as the world watches and grieves and I cannot find my shoes. The world grows darker and colder and I know that I should feel grateful to have shoes at all but the shame of not doing more with the life that I have been gifted with only seems to magnify until I understand that I am squandering this gift because I am being too short-sighted to appreciate it. Maybe that’s been the problem all along, maybe I have been thinking too small when the world is so big and I can do so much if I just open my eyes to all I can offer those around me.
Not everything is about Angie.
What does it mean to leave ones mark in the world and why isn’t a quiet voice as powerful as one that is greeted with cameras and fanfare and truck loads of money? It’s funny because as much as I complain about being my own plus one I think I enjoy it too much. I’m my own best mate, validating my own fears and insecurities; never challenging myself enough; never looking too close in the mirror out of fear of what might truly be reflected back at me.
As another year goes into the books, I find myself once again asking just what I want the next year to look like and challenging myself to make it different from the last 365 days that seemed to just fly by. I think I’m going to start with the small stuff --- being grateful for what I have, as opposed to lamenting what I don’t; saying thank you when someone compliments me instead of falling all over myself to deflect their shout out; taking people as they are and not as I wish them to be; and learning how to just be.
My shoes were in a big black bag that I had thrown in the corner, too late to wear on my date, but finally found none the less and I laughed; the kind of laugh that only occurs when you realize just how ridiculous you have become.
I finally found my shoes, so what's next?

till next time…

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The Feminine Mystique

I recently decided to compile some of my essays into a short book titled, Under the Hill: One Thirty-Something Woman's Musings on Spinsterhood, Disappointment and Accidental Self Discovery. Anyone who has read my column knows that they are a type of satire, a comedic way of looking at the very real problems and concerns that single women in their thirties face. These columns are meant to be fun, so imagine my surprise when I received my first review and it wasn’t a complaint about the grammar or the writing style, it was a tirade about my audacity to pass frivolous musings off as feminism when any real woman worth her salt would be focused on serious world issues.
Well, excuse me.
Under the Hill isn’t trying to redefine feminism, in fact, feminism is not a concept that I really embrace; but as the role of women continue to evolve, and women find themselves creating their own norms, I have to wonder, what is today’s feminist mystique?
For those who may not be familiar with the book of this title, The Feminine Mystique was published in 1963 by Betty Friedan and focused on the growing unhappiness of suburban housewives following World War II. While women were supposed to be content with marriage, family and the big house with the white picket fence, they weren’t, and the reality of this set off a whole new dialogue about what a modern woman should do with her life. Friedan pointed out that women were being pushed to marry by the male dominated media of the time who portrayed women as either happy housewives or unhappy, neurotic careerists. This dichotomy created the "feminine mystique"—the idea that women were naturally fulfilled by devoting their lives to being housewives and mothers. This was in contrast to the previous feminist movement of the 1920’s and 1930’s which portrayed single women with careers as confident and independent heroines.  Thus, in a generation, women had been placed back in a box that they had outgrown decades.
While I have no desire to debate whether women find fulfillment in their careers or their families, I think everybody is different,  I do wonder why some people still feel the need to tell women who they should be in order to truly be happy and matter in this world. It sometimes feels like a confusing trap. Women who aren’t married are sometimes made to feel like inadequate losers, while women who worry about marrying are deemed as weak and ignorant complainers who need to embrace their independence and focus on world peace.
Whatever.
I often think that the reason that Sex in the City was so popular was because it gave us a new type of feminism, one that showed that women could “have it all” ---- the independent and fabulously stylish life of their dreams and prince charming. Think about it, in Carrie Bradshaw’s world buying a pair of shoes and getting married were given equal importance. Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte decided the parameters of their own reality, they created their own “feminine mystique” and instead of being judged, people respected them for it.
What got me about the review wasn’t the negative rating; I know that there are people who are going to hate Under the Hill and some of the other things I write. It was all the assumptions that the reviewer seemed to make. I was obviously an idiot with my head in the clouds. I couldn’t be a journalist, a political activist, a social worker, a mentor, or a business woman, not when I was taking a tongue and cheek look at life and love that revealed fears that were personal, small, intimate and sometimes immature in nature; a serious woman would never do that.
As I get older, I realize that you can either define yourself by how others view you, or stand firm on who you know you are. The Feminine Mystique has to be The Angie Mystique and I get to define what that is. Everyone is a critique, but not every criticism is one that we should embrace as our own personal truth.


till next month…

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Black Like Me


Dark Girls: Preview from Bradinn French on Vimeo.


I was watching the trailer for the upcoming documentary Dark Girls, produced by Bill Duke for Duke Media, and literally let out a loud sigh when it was over. Call me naive, but I really had convinced myself that this type of colorism belonged to the 1980’s, when “light-skinned” girls were in vogue and you “made it” if you caught the eye of the pretty boy, with curly hair and light eyes, who sat next to you in math class. The longer I stay single, the more I have to beat back those old insecurities that plagued me as a young girl, and my skin color is one of them. In a world where black women are still judged by how close we come to the European standard of beauty that America worships, I have to wonder, is it ever going to be okay to be black like me?
I am not considered to be "dark," but I am the darkest one of my maternal cousins and it was hard on me. They were "light-skinned" with "pretty", “good” hair and I was “smart.” My aunts, who were all darker than me, where thrilled to have their beautiful daughters, while my mom, who was lighter than them, just had to make do. She never seemed to mind that her daughter wasn’t “the fairest of them all,” but I always felt inadequate. There were the times when a friend’s mother said that, “light-skinned women are beautiful, even if they are ugly.” There was the time when my mom’s friend went nuts because after generations of careful color engineering her very fair daughter had the nerve to being home a very dark boy. There was the time when my cousins shook their very long hair in my face. Then, there were all the years I listened to my best friend, the “light-skinned, long-haired goddess” Vienna, talk about which guy she was going to give the time of day when nobody seemed to want to look at me.

I was surprised by the long buried feelings this trailer brought back up in me. I didn’t think that I still carried that baggage because I had grown into a beautiful, successful woman and all my “light-skinned” counterparts had grown into women I didn’t want to be. But all, “I got the last laugh” clich├ęs aside, I realize that being made to feel inferior based on your looks is not something that you can outgrow.  I think it’s made worse by the perception, true or not, that black men seem to want anybody but us black women. Many black women have been made to feel undesirable simply by being themselves and it cuts us deep. “The problem with you black women,”: they’ll say, “is x,y,z”, but the REAL problem with us black women is that we don’t look like the models, singers and movie stars that men have been taught to adore. I don’t know what the solution is to this, but I do know that I’m glad that we are still having this conversation. It is the only way to begin the healing and to put a real end to this nonsense.
Every little girl is told that she is beautiful and every woman is encouraged to look in the mirror and be proud of what she sees, but most of the time it feels like empty words that are said to “ugly ducklings” with a wink and a smile. Maybe, the real problem is that we have to stop letting others tell us that we don’t look the way they want us to look; that we have to do the hardest thing in the world --- validate ourselves; that we have to BELIEVE in our own beauty; that we have to stop using what our ancestors gave us --- our hair, our lips, our skin, as weapons instead of as gifts. Maybe then, “dark” will no longer be that dirty word that black girls are afraid to hear.

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The Invisible Sex


I was reading a story about a man who murdered his girlfriend, their two children, and himself, in front of his girlfriend’s oldest children and my mouth literally fell open when I scrolled down to the comment section and found a page full of condolences, not for the murdered woman, or her children, but for the “good guy” who “helped everybody.”  When a woman posted that “good guys” don’t kill their girlfriends, and that he was probably abusing this woman for years before finally killing her, a slew of hateful, ignorant, and may I add, misogynistic responses quickly materialized.  I won’t recount them all, but the basic gist of them were that if there was abuse going on it was nobody’s business, and if she was being abused, and chose to stay with the psycho, then what happened in that car was her fault. I was floored and I had to ask myself, despite all of our gains, are women still the invisible sex?

Think for a minute. I’m willing to bet that you know, or have known, someone who is a victim of intimate partner violence. Not surprising given the fact that domestic violence can take many different forms: physical, emotional, sexual and economic. It affects women and men of every age, race and class. It can happen to anybody---even you.

African American women seem to get the worst of it. According to The Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American community, African-American women experience intimate partner violence at rates 35% higher than their White counterparts and 2.5 times the rate of men and other races. In addition, African Americans account for a disproportionate number of intimate partner homicides. In 2005, African American accounted for almost 1/3 of the intimate partner homicides in this country.  These are staggering statistic that reminds us that too many of our mothers, sisters, wives, brothers and friends are trapped in a never-ending cycle of generational violence.

As African Americans, our lives often seemed marred by violence. We see it in our homes, in our schools, and in our streets. Too many of us see hitting, punching, and screaming as normal reactions to conflict, and it’s not.  I was raised to understand that I never put my hands on anyone and I should never allow anyone to put their hands on me. It’s almost a quaint notion in a society that has somehow come to believes that women can “give as good as they get” and “deserve” to suffer if they get out of line. Somehow, we have forgotten to love and cherish each other. We’ve forgotten that real women don’t hit and real men walk away from a volatile situation, no matter how hard that chose may be. We will never get anywhere as a community if we can’t stop hurting each other --- spiritually, emotionally and physically.
I work with women who are victims of domestic violence and the number one question I get is, “why don’t they just leave?” It’s not a question with an easy answer.
·         Many fear that they cannot survive emotionally without their partner.  I once had a woman tell me that, “I wasn’t starved for money or for courage, I was starved for love, and I’d accept anything to get it.”
·         Many feel that they can’t survive financially without their partner.
·         Many do not want to break up their families.
·         Also, for many, violence may be all they know, and they convince themselves that what they are going through isn’t really that bad.
·         Then there is the very real threat of more violence and even death. Many times, when a partner threatens to kill their mate if they leave they are not kidding.  

As African American women, we need to make our voices heard and demand respect. It is not okay to kill, maim, burn or defile us in anyway. It is not okay to take us from our babies, and force us to leave motherless children who will never be whole again. The appalling treatment of so many of us should not be treated as business as usual. It should not be rationalized as something that we deserve. It should not be ignored.  We can close or eyes and try to pretend that intimate partner violence is not that bad, or deny it is even happening, but the invisible often materializes at the most inconvenient times, reminding us that some things cannot be wished away. We must stand up for those who we cannot see, but who we know need us the most.

till next month…
 

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Worthwhile Pursuits

I was having lunch with a co-worker and her friend when her friend suddenly announced that she was looking for a new man, one who “could bring home the bacon.” As she continued with her “a good man is hard to find diatribe,” I realized that this woman wanted a lot in a man, but from what I could tell, she didn’t really have much to offer this ubermate in return. She smokes like a chimney, screams like a banshee when she is angry, and has a hard time staying faithful to the man she “loves.” She’s nobody’s prize, yet her expectations for her men were enormous.  This got me thinking: Do women think about their own worth when they proclaim what they want in a man?

There is an old saying that when you pick a mate you need to be equally yoked. If you are successful, you need someone who is successful. If you’re a Christian, you don’t want to marry an atheist. If you’re a high school dropout who lives on welfare well…you get the picture. So, why do so many women seem to think that they can expect so much when they offer so little? Let’s face it ladies, when an unkempt, bus riding, unemployed male asks for the digits we’re insulted, even if we are sitting on the bus right next to him.

Finding a man worthy of your time is hard, I know, believe me I know, but when we start listing off the qualification that we want in a man maybe we need to count how many things on the list we have. I’m guilty of this too. My dream man was always a rich doctor or a lawyer with the looks of a model and the personality of a saint, yet for years I was happy with my B.A. and was struggling to find stable employment. I was battling the bulge and I was taking snarkiness to a whole new level. It wasn’t until I took a hard look at myself, and was honest about where I was in life, that I knew that my “mate wanted ad” needed tweaking.  I was looking for a man to carry me to the Promise Land of wealth and security and couldn’t understand why I kept being dropped! Don’t get me wrong, all women should have standards, but if you’re going to set your bar high, you need to be able to reach that bar yourself. Once I started to work for, and achieve, the things I wanted in a man, I realized that I had become the person I was always looking for. I had become successful and accomplished and I didn’t need a man to get me where I wanted to go.

Today, I’m a fantastic catch and any man who steps to me has to have it going on because I have it going on. I can ask a lot, because I’m worth it.

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Yahoo!

Petty Things was published on Yahoo! today. Check it out here.

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Under the Hill -- The Book

I'm currently in the process of collecting all my essays from my Under the Hill column and publishing it as a book. Part memoir, part self-help book, it takes an irreverent look at what its like to work, love and live as a thirty-something singleton. So, keep your eye out for Under the Hill: Musings of a Thirty-something Singleton. Coming this July.


If you'd like to learn more about the book, email me at aparkeronline@yahoo.com.

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