Thursday, April 30, 2009

Girl Genius Over Here!


[No idea what this picture has to do with anything]

Have you ever come across an old email, or letter, or story and thought, "Wow, I wrote that?" We all walk around with the vague impression that we're competent and maybe mildly intelligent (well, at least I do), but every once in awhile we're forced to sit up, look in the mirror, grin slyly and think, "Damn, you're fierce."

This happened to me today as I was going through my emails from last summer. I was trying to find the cute little tree do-hicky that Hearst Corp. puts on the end of their emails that say, like, don't print this email or the Earth will perish, or something to that effect. I ran across my application to become a style writer for my absolute favorite website, Jezebel. I was just a young buck then. 22-years old, interning with the uber-fab Translation and looking for a full-time editorial gig. My cover letter (which is excerpted below) scored me an interview with the company, the opportunity to do an edit test, but no cigar. Still, I think it was pretty hot. I wrote:

The writing bug hit me around 2nd grade (with no warning and quite rudely) and my dream since then was to work for a glossy, women's magazine. Through the years I regularly sated my fixation by devouring Seventeen, Cosmopolitan, Vogue, and Marie Claire and the like before I came to the realization that the magazines, collectively, kind of suck (this category, of course, excludes Jane. May she rest in peace). Besides lacking in substance and ignoring real issues that real women deal with, they exist on the presumed platform that women are wack and need to improve. Get Thinner Thighs! Shiny Hair is Yours Now! Make Him Want You!


Where is the voice that gives a big, jovial high-five to women as they are? The presence that says you and your beer belly are fine the way that they are and, more importantly, the ice caps are melting, public schools are failing, our economy is in the tubes and John McCain is actually serious about becoming president—these are of equal importance. So, though I love to write about women and what's relevant to us, I'd rather do it at place that includes all that we are, not just weight-loss and/or sex tips. Enter Jezebel, Stage Right.

Amazingly, I still feel that way. Of course I looked at the letter and immediately spotted some punctuation errors that I wish I could go back and correct, but c'est la vie.

--Whitney

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Weird Girls


[Lady GaGa]

If you read this blog even a little bit, then I'm assuming you're a bit of a weird girl/guy. After all, the whole premise of the site was to create a space for me to put my unique, quirky, and always weird spin on everything from pop culture to politics to style.

I've always been a little weird. Ask my mom, my sister, my aunts or cousins and they'll probably tell you that they always thought that girl was strange. I read a whole lot, I could be a little withdrawn in social and family settings and I never felt like I fit in growing up in my hometown. Fast-forward 20-something years and I know that all those things were mandatory experiences for an aspiring writing. I mean, when was the last time a book about being perfect and having all the answers won a Pulitzer?

Music has always been a place for weirdos. See Prince, Sinead O'Connor, Tupac and Erykah Badu. And being different has always been sort of a gimmack, I guess. But the onslaught of weird girls, arguably the first generation of strangies really allowed to roam and be themselves, have been marketed, monetized and analyzed to the nth degree. I'm talking about Amy Winehouse, Janelle Monae, my new favorite Lady GaGa and a slew of others that I'm forgetting. Solange, Rihanna and the like were always sort of the commercialized version of weird, so I won't include them.

As I was jamming to The Fame in the car this weekend, I began to think how absolutely cool it is to listen to an album by a woman writer who isn't constantly waxing pathetic about her man. Yes, that is a not-so-subtle nod to the Beyonces, Jazmine Sullivans, Monicas and Keri Hilsons of the world. I love their music, but a girl needs a break from all that heartache.

I heart GaGa even more after reading quotes like these:

"Because of Amy [Winehouse] very strange girls like me go to prom with very good-looking guys."

Heart, heart, heart her. Long live all the weird girls of the world.




-- Whitney

Monday, April 27, 2009

Remembering Bea


[Bea Arthur]

I didn't want to start this post with lyrics from "Thank You For Being a Friend," because, frankly, I'm tired of the deluge of media folk referencing that song. I actually didn't know how to start this post. I've watched "Golden Girls" since 1990, when I was 5 years old and used to snuggle up to my g-ma and watch GG and "Empty Nest" back to back after the 10 o'clock news on Channel 5. The room would be ice cold (we're Southerners. No heat gets in our home.) and my granny would have on her silky nightgown. She would cackle all throughout the thirty minute episodes. I would laugh too, but mostly at the facial expressions or physical stuff, since I had no idea what menopause, Fez Parker or impotence meant.

Between 1990 and today, I have never stopped watching that show. Reruns on Lifetime, then I bought the DVDs, plus watching them on YouTube, the show is just as much alive to me (and many of my Black, 20-something friends) today as it was in the 80s and 90s.

As I got older, it wasn't just Dorothy's deep voice or Rose's confused expression that made me laugh; I started to understand the jokes. Rose was even more naive than I was in seventh grade. Blanche was waaaay too hot in the pants to be post-menopausal. Dorothy and Sophia were the funniest mother/daughter duo I've ever seen on screen.

So, of course I was deeply saddened when Estelle Getty, famous for playing little, minxy Sophia, passed away. And when my sister texted me Saturday afternoon that Bea Arthur was gone, I was gone. I had dug up my first season DVDs earlier that day out of boredom and was watching the hilarity that started it all when I heard the news. I wonder if, by some strange chance, my deep, deep devotion to the show had led me to those episodes? Don't laugh, it's possible!

How can I put into words how amazing Bea was? We all know she was funny and intelligent and unflinching in her portrayal of all sides of a woman. I wasn't aware until recently that she was a staunch supporter of AIDS awareness and animal rights. Ashleigh told me that she also hated cheesecake. Really?!

She was my favorite Golden Girl, the one who I most identified with. And, since many other bloggers have echoed the same sentiment, I'd be willing to guess that she was the most popular; probably because she was everywoman, in a way.

Before "Sex and the City," before "Living Single," before "Girlfriends," there were four single ladies living it up in a stucco house in Miami, eating cheesecake, telling stories, sharing joys and pain, for the world to see. Age was only a state of mind for them, as they were as active and vital as anyone else running across the primetime screen.

It goes without saying that I am mourning the loss of Bea, and what she represents.

Read other tributes to her:

Jezebel: Bea Arthur's Top 5 Contributions To Pop Culture
NPR: Cheers to 'Maude' Bea Arthur
The Cynical Ones: Bye, Bea
Afrobella: RIP Bea Arthur

-- Whitney

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Kim K Ain't No Thicky Thick Girl


[Not A Plus-Size Body, Us Weekly]

As if she read my mind, Kim Kardashian recently updated her blog, and responded to Us Weekly's assertion that she would be rocking anything from Forever 21's plus-sized line.

She said:

"I am a huge fan of Forever 21 and I'm very happy they have expanded their line to include a plus-size range, but I am not in that size category and this article makes it sound like I am! I am a curvy girl and I love my curves, but curvy and plus-sized are two very different things. I work really hard to maintain my curves while staying slim and healthy, so to be classed as a 'fuller-figured woman' of extra large proportions is a little offensive. For the record, I am a size 2, not 2XL."

Yes, the tone was a bit snarky, but she's ultimately right. A round ass and big boobs do not a plus-size person make.

Read my earlier thoughts on the curvy vs. fat thing here.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Bitch-made


[Katherine as Allison, Seth as Ben in Knocked Up]

I was watching Knocked Up last night, as is my custom when I am bored and need to keep the TV on as background noise. As usual, the annoying twit that is Katherine Heigl's character Allison was really getting under my skin. I twittered my hate of her, but that still didn't absolve my feelings.

Maybe because my 'Net was down (f&*k you, Comcast!) and because my apartment was a mess, but I didn't feel like cleaning it up, or because my hair was also a mess but I didn't have time to wash it and let it dry before I had to go to bed, but I just started to get really mad at Katherine-as-Allison, and her ilk.

Why is it that cool dudes always go for bitches? When I say bitch I mean a girl that's prissy for no reason. A girl that's stuck up for no reason. A girl that thinks she's God's gift to a dude because she has a vagina. A girl that treats a guy like crap just because she can. I don't have anything fundamentally against girls like that, but it's sort of annoying when it seems like trill guys go for them.

Like Seth Rogen as Ben Stone in Knocked Up. That's a dude that I'd kick it with. He's funny, nice, unpretentious and understands the merits of being intoxicated. So why did he immediately fall for a girl that is the exact opposite of cool?

It's like when guys complain that women like asshole-y guys. Now I feel like I know what they mean. Is it woman and man's natural tendency to go for mean people? Is it about balance, or is it really a cultural thing that we believe that if someone's a bitch it must mean that they have a lot to offer?

Whatever it is, add it to the list of things that supremely piss me off.

--Whitney

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Thicky Thick Girls


[Image courtesy of Clutch]

The media, it seems, will never tire of dissecting women's bodies. They claim that women think about their bodies all the time. They claim that so-called real women look to celebrities for body inspiration. They claim that our body image effects the way that we carry ourselves and prompts us to sometimes engage in not-so-great behavior.

Frankly, it's a little annoying. The only discussions about body that I ever seem to have are between some web story and the comments section. Two of my favorite websites, Jezebel and Clutch, both recently ran stories about body image, from two decidedly different angles.

Jezzie hypothesized the world's new acceptance of curvier figures, like Coke bottle Joan Holloway from "Mad Men." Hortense argued that we aren't really beginning to accept new body types, but rather just replacing one unrealistic expectation with another. Good point, as the ultra-sensual, tiny waist/big breast/round ass combo doesn't present itself naturally for many women.

One thing that's always really weird for me when white media types talk about "curvy" is the fact that most of the women don't actually have curves. Curvy, at least in my mind, denotes a roundness in some desirable place, like your breasts or hips. It urks me when it's slapped on someone just because they're overweight. Like Queen Latifah or Adele. I have lots of curves in my stomach; they are called rolls. And no, I don't consider myself curvy. Humph.

Along those same lines, I really wish black people would stop calling fat people thick. Clutch explores the fairly recent phenomenon here. I blame that damn Mo'Nique. I don't know if it's the desire to take a word with a positive connotation and apply it to a body that the world doesn't view as positive or even attractive, or something else. But it's just misleading, annoying and inaccurate. Furthermore, what are you saying about yourself if you have to lie and describe yourself untruthfully?

Which also brings up a wider question. Is acceptance of our nation's growing waistlines even healthy? Five years ago I would have said yes. We are all unique individuals and have a right to live our lives the way we want to. No one should judge you solely by how you look anyway. Today, the answer is pretty gray for me. I wrote a story about a new scientific study that literally scared the pizza out of my hands. The gist: Black folks have horrible heart health and we die prematurely because of it. The sad part is that I shouldn't have had to read it; I've lived it.

My grandmother, grandfather, uncle, aunt and another aunt all passed away within just a few years (my uncle and aunt died just three weeks apart), and all to preventable disorders like heart failure, obesity and stroke. One of my aunts had been overweight nearly her whole life and, growing up in the South, hadn't wanted for male attention. In fact, my mother (who has always been scrawny), used to wish that she had the big legs and full boobs of her older sister.

I'm not placing the blame of anyone's health on our culture; I think it's amazing that Black people have created our own standard of beauty. But over half of my entire immediate family was wiped out my freshman year of high school, and the cause was essentially a horrible (albeit very typical for Southern Blacks) lifestyle. And that lifestyle, which sometimes produces beautiful thickey thick girls, is what I am afraid we glorify when we denounce someone who is obese as just thick.

Does anyone out there hear me? Do you feel me?

-- Whitney

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Embarassed, much?



I'm not easily embarrassed. Well, at least not by other people. I embarrass myself constantly. Like when I walk around all day thinking that I'm looking cute, but realize around 7 p.m. that my zipper's been down since I went to the bathroom at noon, or when I notice a fellow commuter noticing me plucking my facial hairs in the car. Those, to me, are sufficiently embarrassing moments.

What other people do, whether my friends or family, with me or away from me, isn't reflective of me, therefore I can't be embarrassed by it. I find that, among similarly upwardly mobile black people, I am in the minority with this opinion. Is it just me, or does it seem like BAPs are the most easily abashed folks in the world. Especially when they're in a mostly-white environment. These strange creatures from Planet Uppity-For-No-Reason are quick to shush their friends ("being an ill-educated arsehole is quiet work, you minion!") and work extra hard to distance themselves from restaurant or store patrons that are engaging in too much blackery for their taste.

I've had this theory for a few years, but it has been fully honed since entering the virtual training ground for empty attitudes that is my alma mater. I was once at a party with a friend when one of my favorite songs came on. I deigned to raise one arm and let out an excited yell, only to be met with "We are not going to get drunk and act crazy tonight!" Umm, excuse me?! Why the hell not?! Oh, sorry, I forgot that the invisible ass sticks we're all clinching prohibits fun.

I recently went to my neighborhood Ross store and was forcibly and annoyingly reminded of this concept. I was attempting to return a nightstand that I had bought a few weeks back, but had sat in my trunk since then. I was partly too lazy to bring it in to my apartment, but otherwise just forgot that I had bought it. I figured that if it wasn't memorable enough to make it out of the car, I shouldn't have wasted the cash on it to begin with.

So, after waiting in line for nearly half an hour, mere moments from passing out from the mysterious, flu-like sickness that had washed over me that day, I went up to the register and handed the attendant my receipt. The barcode was smudged, and therefore she claimed that she couldn't process the return. Dear readers, what would you have done? I made a stink. Not a mean one, not a loud one, not a disrespectful one. It was just stinky enough to show the cashier (and later her manager) that I was not one to be dicked by Ross Dress for Less.

While waiting for the manager to make a few calls, I watched the cashier take the next few customers, all of whom were black. Maybe it was my imagination, but I could have sworn that they were all extra-polite to her. She, the non-English speaking woman that looked at them up and down with disgust as they smiled and said "Hi," seemingly imploring with their eyes that she (a woman who probably hates blacks in general and looks down on you because of your skin. Regardless of your college alumni plates and Pan-Hel window stickers) not lump them into the same category of neck-rolling, finger-pointing Negroes that dare to demand rational, fair treatment at discount stores.

RME. Fellow Ross patrons and your ilk, please get a life.

--Whitney