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Saturday, 24 September 2016

HERBIE, THE IDIOT GIRLIE CAR


Cosmopolitan Magazine (yes, it’s still alive and kicking and probably still asking you on it’s cover if you’ve taken it’s latest ‘sex quiz’ to liven things up in the bedroom) and SEAT the car manufacturer recently confirmed all women’s suspicions: that the world still looks at our gender like a bunch of myopic, shallow idiots.  

Recently they unveiled a new car specifically designed for women. It’s purple (clearly they ran out of sassy pink paint)  Need I say more (oh but I will, I will). It was recently introduced at FashFest here in London (I’m sensing this has something to do with fashion cause of that zippy name) and received a bit of a lukewarm welcome. Actually I’m being kind, many women found it offensive and took to Twitter to let the manufacturers hear it, and frankly, I don’t blame them.

In addition to the simply ‘fabulous’ colour, the car also comes designed with jewel effect rims (cause little ladies love sparkly shiny things. Oooooh so pretty!!), a handbag hook (fine, I will give them this as the one practical idea they came up with), and eyeliner headlights. Yes, you heard me, the car is wearing make-up!  I honestly want to puke. Cause I have finally realised that in all my life, that hole in my heart, that aching void I tried to fill with so many other meaningless, fleeting things, could only be filled with a car wearing make-up. Hallelujah!!!!

Wait, sorry, give me a moment; I have to reapply my liquid liner so my car doesn’t upstage me. Be right back….

Apparently the car’s “thoughtful feminine touches” are the result of a two-year period of research and development with Cosmopolitan readers into what women want. I’ll remind you that the average Cosmo reader is around 18 and shouldn’t be trusted with car design let alone knowing not to wear white after Labor Day.  So as for what I want, it’s not purple and sparkly wearing make-up.
Of course SEAT came out and strongly defended the car saying they in know way meant to cause offense. And if we crazy little woman calm down, they have a pink fuzzy handbag with our names written all over it.

Here’s the thing, I don’t mind the notion of a car with a specific design catering to women (in fact, I’d like to see more things designed with us in mind as most products are designed by men, for men). But design it for actual women, not the stereotype of women. Make the seat contour us differently as we’re genetically smaller than men (for the most part), put in a LARGER coffee holder as we need so much damn caffeine because we sleep less and are always the ones waking up with our children. Make the glove compartment have a more organized compartmentalized structure for the many things we have to shove in it in order to care take for so many people. And here is the kicker, put a window in between the driver seat and the rest of the car (actually make it a large thick sound proof capsule) so we can get 5 minutes peace as we drive to our JOBS and use our brains to take over this planet from the male dominated car designers! Yeah…that should do it. Oh, and make it black or charcoal grey. Purple is for…well, my six year old son digs purple.

So, SEAT, you can keep your jewels and your make-up and your flashy purple car and design a car that is intelligent, efficient, pragmatic, and sexy…you know, like actual women.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

BLACK ENOUGH



My husband is of mixed ethnicities (how does one even say that?) He’s mixed – a mish mash…a  fabulous melting pot of a husband. As these days, most of us are, really.  The King for that matter is a walking UN, there are times at the doctors/school etc. and it takes me ten minutes to figure out which ethnicity box to check. My husband’s mother’s family is from Poland and his father is half Caribbean (Grenadian to be specific) & half English.

I’ve been with him over 10 years, and I’m always flabbergasted when people have the balls/nerve to comment on his skin colour. The top audacious comment, that he’s not ‘black enough.’ Or rather, they gleefully tell him that he’s ‘barely black,’ as if he fails to live up to some black test because his skin is a failing shade or his features don’t fall into some ‘black construct’ they have in their heads – “But um, all black people are supposed to look like this, didn’t you know??”  Saying this, for many he’s deemed to be brown (more than enough brown, but not enough black), but falls into that mysterious, “But really, what are you?” category. He’s often mistaken for Middle Eastern (real fun at airports), Moroccan, Brazilian, and so on…. Cause you know how it is, people love a label.

Before I go any further, my husband has very defined views on race and I shall leave it to him to explain this to you or, actually Newsweek Magazine can do it (http://europe.newsweek.com/there-no-such-thing-race-283123?rm=eu). But in short, he believes that race is a biological myth, not a reality. So, when people say he’s not ‘enough’ he’s not as offended as some would be, he’s just finds it curiously amusing.  On one level, one can’t help but be compelled to ask the idiot wanting to label him, well, what is black/brown to you? And why is it so important that my husband fits into that mold? And that is the key really…It depends on the construct that the person in question has in their own minds as to what ‘black is’ (or race for that matter). What people of colour should look like, act like, be like…. Is he wearing the wrong thing? Is his nose too wide, or not wide enough? What is the acceptable shade to allow him entry into this so-called club? (The hysterical part is most people that tell him this are white. Cause they know everything about what it is to be black).
  
In short, by saying to another person, 'you’re not ‘something’ enough,' you are immediately making a judgment on their experience (and being very obnoxious in the process). And it is exactly that, THEIR experience. Not yours. You don’t walk in their shoes, you don’t experience what they do and despite the shade of their skin, if they identify with a certain race, colour, creed what have you, that is entirely up to them (and well, not you) Furthermore, being ‘black’ and what that experience is, is not going to come down to race alone (or race at all for that matter). A Black man in Italy will have an entirely different experience than a black man in Arkansas. I still laugh to myself when someone asked me if Afro-Americans in England had English accents. And I said, um, YES, but they’re not referred to as Afro-Americans in England. They actually asked me, “Why not?”….Yeah, I’ll let you sit with that one for a bit.

There have been many instances where my husband was the only non-white person in the room and I assure you, walking into a pub in parts of England where you’re the only non-white and the entire room turns, well, suddenly you feel pretty damn ‘other.’  The other popular question he gets is, ‘where are you from?’ He always politely responds, “Well, I’m British.” And then of course, their response, ‘But where are you from?’ And he smiles and says, “London.” And they just pause and look totally stumped. Then just to torture them, he utters some Polish to our son and their head practically explodes.

And here is the rub, one man/woman’s black, might be another man’s brown, might be another man’s freaking beige, but at the end of the day, what the hell does it matter?  Each person is going to identify with his or her heritage in a specific way and that is not up to anyone else to label that heritage worthy of acceptability. And moreover, perhaps we should spend more time thinking of ourselves as Newsweek magazine (and so many other scholars do) suggests – as part of one species, ahem, the human species. But then, that would make us all the same, and not different as we’d like to think we are. Cause like it or not, we define ourselves by our differences; there is a safety in that. “No, no, I’m not like him. I’m better, smarter, faster, more successful!!” For me, that’s the egregious problem with today’s society. Too much focus on our differences, when we should really be looking at the collective as a whole and for that matter, our sameness. 





Wednesday, 14 September 2016

FIDENCIO SANCHEZ


I love this story so much, especially in today’s climate of negativity and vitriolic mudslinging. Hopefully it will remind people not only of what the human collective can do when its heart and mind is solely focused on generosity, but it’s an example of pure and simple hard work. A rarity these days in times of short cuts and a declining work ethic.

A Chicago paleta vendor (ice cream) named Fidencio Sanchez has truly shown the world that hard work is one of the most admirable traits there is. Recently retired, Fidencio had been an ice cream vendor, with his wife (who had to quit due to ill health) on the streets of Little Village for 23 years. For the neighborhood, he was a welcomed sight that harkened back to simpler times. Over the summer, he was rocked by the death of his daughter and was forced out of retirement to care for her children. Realising that he had to put food on the table, he went back to pushing his cart, working over 10 hour days to support his wife and grandchildren.

A passerby was so moved by Fidencio’s work ethic and dedication, he set up a Go Fund Me page a week ago in hopes of raising some money for Fidencio’s plight. To his surprise, in a few days, the page had far surpassed his target of $3000 and to date has raised $201,000.

Despite his good fortune, Fidencio says he has no plans to stop working – at 89!! Read that sentence again, just in case you were feeling lazy today and didn’t want to go to work. The man can barely walk, and yet, he takes to the streets to meet his responsibilities (responsibilities by the way he certainly wasn’t planning for). I swear to you, examples like these are what we should all be focusing on, especially those that think the world owes them. In today’s times, if it doesn’t happen quick and easy, the complaints start flying fast and furious, not to mention so many people out there who think it is someone else’s job to take care of them. Of course, we could place blame on a hundred different things (obsession with wealth, fame, social media, people tired of working so hard for so very little, and so on….) but when it comes down to it, there are times when good old fashioned hard work appears to be a dying virtue.

Then again, I suppose now with platforms such as Go Fund Me, at least people can put their hearts in the right place. And there is nothing that makes me happier than when the human collective actually mobilizes for good and not just to tear each other apart.

Now, I don’t know about you, but as it’s blazing heat in these parts (and we Englanders know it won’t last!) I’m going to get an ice cream.










Friday, 9 September 2016

WELCOME BACK




Admittedly I have been absent for quite some time (and for that I'm sorry), but it is my promise to get back on the D&D horse this autumn! 

At this point, I feel a bit stunned that the summer is over and the school year has begun again. The King is in year 2 (I’m always asked what the U.S equivalent is, and to be honest, I still don’t know how to answer that. Let’s just say, he’s being forced to do his times tables and most of the kids are 7 years old) and to be honest, I have no idea how that happened. Mere moments ago he was my little curly haired toddler pushing a pink pram around the park filled with cars and now he’s almost as tall as I am.  Okay, not quite, but he did ask me to pick him up the other day and after one attempt, I almost threw my back out. I also resembled a stumpy fisherman trying to wrestle a LARGE flounder so I’m thinking holding my child is going to be reserved for when I’m sitting in a chair.

Of course he is now at the age where the requests for independence are coming fast and furious…the latest request of his was to get a Mohawk. I informed him that when he’s 18, he could do whatever he likes to his hair,  but at this point, I’m still in charge (he always laughs when I say this, which unsettles me as I know he thinks I’ve got this all wrong). Thankfully, he quickly loses interest and segues into asking me who my favourite Ninjago is and why -- I always retort it’s Mia cause she’s the only female ninja and of course she must be the most powerful and WISE (he’s not sold on this because apparently Cole can turn into lightning or something like that….good god how did I fall down this rabbit hole?)

Like most people, the summer ended up being a traveling blur of friends, family and far too much food.  There were days where my husband and I would look at each other and ask when was the last time we bathed our son!  We traveled to the States, packed more in that was humanly possible, and was told by the King that he wants to live in each place we hit along our journey – of course this was based on what food they had and how entertaining he found the people. I tried to inform him that it was not humanly possible to live in four different places unless you are a professional athlete, Elon Musk or a Trustafarian, but he wasn’t giving in.  To him, summers in Brooklyn (where the ice cream rocks apparently) and winter’s in Carmel (with all his friends transplanted from London to California of course) seemed perfectly doable. 

And like most of the world, we were of course also Olympic junkies (in between Wimbledon and Formula One of course and trying my best to avoid any coverage of the circus that is American politics). I can never get enough of International sports, although I’m still not convinced badminton or that gymnastic ribbon-dancing thing should qualify as sports…honestly, those two 'sports' are up there with curling.  The King weighed in that he was a bit mystified by Tae Kwon Do as from his pov, it just looked like they kicked each other in the head repeatedly. But he quite liked the swimmers as they went fast and looked like they had very good goggles (trying to find the perfect pair of goggles to suit the King has been my life quest).

By the time we got back to London, two things struck me: damn I love my city, and wow, have I spent a large amount of time discussing the intricacies of Ninjago. Of course by the time the first day of school arrived (and I realised all his school trousers were six inches too short!), I was practically dragging the King out of the house at six in the morning, half dressed uttering, “No no, it’s fine, you can eat breakfast as you stand outside the gates. I’m sure plenty of people will be there waiting!” 

Welcome back everyone. Here's to a great autumn….



Sunday, 26 June 2016

PIPE DOWN AND LISTEN


In couples therapy you will quickly realise (if you’ve never tried it, I highly recommend it. It’s like an enema for your relationship. Scary at first, but has total benefits that bring about a major release) that any healthy relationship comes down to two things: listening to your partner and communicating in a constructive way. And let's be frank, neither come naturally to the human species.

These days I look around and am not only appalled by what I see and hear, but it’s dawned on me that we as a human race have totally stopped listening to one another and OH MY lord, do we need some major therapy. At the moment, we are all on our soap boxes (ahem, Facebook) preaching, demanding, screaming (guilty as charged on all counts) about how the rest of the planet should live their lives, steeped in a we-know-best attitude. And of course, what we’ve failed to do (some are more guilty of this than others) is take a moment to sit down, shut up and listen to the person on the opposite side of the proverbial table. Most governments fail at this in such a disgraceful way it’s not hard to wonder how anything gets done (ahhhh….I see, nothing does).

I listen to talk radio every day. It would surprise most that know me (outside of my husband as he lives in the house with me) that it is a conservative radio station. Gasp. A self-proclaimed liberal (with centrist tendencies) listening to the ‘enemy!’ How on earth could you? Well, funny enough, I not only do, but I find it utterly enlightening at times (other times, utterly infuriating). At first I was horrified by some of the hosts and calls that would come in on any given topic and I would find myself hollering at the radio as if it could answer me. And then after awhile, my writer brain kicked in and started to just listen and take it all in; And in that listening, I now find that I am actually learning about the people that are different than myself politically, socially and economically. I definitely don’t always like what I hear, and definitely don’t always agree with it, but at times, I actually learn something, and to my utter shock, occasionally agree with someone’s viewpoint or feel empathy, even though they hold a different fundamental belief system than myself. 

In this, I was reminded that no matter how different we all are, or THINK we are, I hate to break it to you but we’re not that different when it comes down to it. As humans we fall foul of thinking about ourselves (whilst preaching that we’re solely thinking of others) far too often, we each believe OUR belief system is the only way forward, and we often have blinders on to anything else around us. On the positive side, we also want what’s best for our friends and families, we want to put down the struggle that life sometimes throws at us (or, let’s be frank, we create), and we want to somehow find some hope in a world that is often pretty bleak.

In light of what has been happening in my country at the moment (the UK that is…well, both my countries for that matter) I think listening to one another is the most vital thing we can do. And I’m not just talking about listening to your friends who share your belief system, that's far too easy; but instead, listen to those who do NOT share your beliefs and question why they feel the way they do (sometimes this is challenging I won’t lie) where they came from and what drives their viewpoint (ok ok, sometimes it’s going to be simple hate or racism, and there is not much one can do about that, but try to understand where that hatred and bigotry has sprung from).

From where I stand, it comes down to this, we can be Western about what plagues this world (and country) and just address the symptoms, or we can put on our Eastern minds and get to the root of the problem once and for all! There is an anger brewing out there and it is fierce (and it’s NOT, I repeat, NOT one dimensional, for those of you thinking it boils down to just one thing, or one class, or one religion or one ethnicity), and as much as I don’t always understand it, it is there and it needs to be addressed or else the top of our planetary kettle is going to blow right off. In this country there is a divide and it is getting bigger every day, and if we actively continue to ignore it, we’re going find ourselves in a bigger hole than we are now.

Moreover, what we don’t need right now, on either side of the aisle is more prejudice and discrimination. And living in England I am witnessing it in spades and it’s not only from the usual suspects that can be easily tarred with a racist or discriminatory brush. It can also be directed at those who encounter someone who dares to think differently than they do; instead of listening and giving some credence to another's viewpoint (or even the mere fact that they too have a right to that viewpoint), they are hurling the same prejudice that they are accusing others of possessing. Prejudice is a funny thing, it’s so easy to paint someone else as so, but sometimes very hard to see it in ourselves.

At the moment, due to the referendum that occurred on June 23rd, people are hurling generalizations fast and furiously without stopping to ponder the notion that perhaps things are more complicated than one thinks and they cannot always be boiled down to one particular issue. I have met and talked to so many people recently (as it comes up with pretty much everyone you run into at the moment) and each has had definitive reasons for their vote that defied much of what I thought (some varied, some simplified, some filled with contradictions and complexities, and some that downright surprised me) Moreover, contrary to the media, or what you may hear at the bus stop on the way to work, many of whom I talked to that voted differently than I did, did so with a thoughtful consideration and not a knee-jerk blindness based on ignorance, which I suppose was a pleasant surprise (obviously there are many exceptions to this and those of you that voted without doing your homework and just liked how an X looked in a box, shame on you). 

Most importantly, throughout all of this, listening has been my biggest lesson. I won’t always agree, I won’t always like the argument, but there is a lesson in listening and I have definitely learned my fair share.  Where we go from here, it’s too soon to tell, but one thing I know for sure, it’s time to start listening, start finding common ground, and start coming together on a profound scale.




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