Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A hand to hand exchange

There is no escaping a handshake in society, but that doesn’t mean it should be executed any old way. It can’t be too soft or too hard. Ideally a handshake should be firm – a happy medium between the two extremes. Personally, I’m not a fan of the practice. Some people don’t wash their hands while others have open cuts and sores. Yet, they will gladly stick out a hand for you to shake. No. Thank. You. This is why I keep hand sanitizer with me at all times. However, I often have to bite the bullet and offer my hand. My only request is if you’re going to shake my hand, make sure it’s done right.

I abhor the “almost dead fish” handshake. You know what I mean – an overly weak handshake that feels like the person is barely alive. Perhaps if the fish was dead it would feel better because of the stiffness from rigor mortis. Shaking hands with an almost dead fish feels disgusting. The main culprit of this handshake is men, at least for me. Several peers and I actually had a discussion about this handshake. The view was men don’t want to hurt a woman with a strong shake. Well simply shake it firmly. Just because I am a woman I will not break. I promise.

On the flip side I hate the “bone crusher” handshake. It’s happened several times where someone shook my hand so hard until my knuckles cracked. The sound came out very loud and clear for both of us to hear. I should not need a cast after a handshake. It’s a handshake, not a test to pull the sword out of the stone. Perhaps my biggest complaint is the “barely there” handshake. It makes me think the person doesn’t want to touch me. Then I start to feel bad. Why isn’t my hand good enough to shake? I should not leave a handshake with lowered self-esteem because the person doesn’t know how to handle the exchange properly.

A firm handshake is truly one size fits all. It doesn’t matter if you have the strength of Popeye or the frailty of Olive Oyl. Keep that in mind and people everywhere will clamor to touch you. Then again they probably have germs. I think I might just start curtseying instead. No touching required.

Exhibit A: A firm handshake

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Back to school Blues

Once upon a time I could not wait to graduate from high school and college. School just was not for me. Senioritis hit me freshman year at both levels. Sure I made good grades and loved learning, but I didn’t like half of my classes. Math and science classes were of no use to me, but I was all about anything relating to history, English or journalism. Graduating was the happiest day of my life. No more teachers. No more books. Nothing but dirty looks. Instead that was replaced with work, no fun and bills. Adult hood sucks!

Good old fashion school days!
Recently it hit me: I miss school. I blame stores such as Walmart. How dare they display rows and rows of school supplies? There are people like me who have long since graduated and don’t need a Trapper Keeper, pencil pouch or graphing calculator. Yet these stores keep taunting me with items such as a Disney princesses lunch box. For the love of Disney I want one too! Each trip makes me nostalgic for buying school supplies such as notebooks, mechanical pencils and a book bag. How else will I be prepared for the first day of class where my eager little mind can soak in as much knowledge as possible? Bed Bath and Beyond keeps sending me these catalogues, and in my mind I have decorated a dorm room three times over. Hanging door mirror here. Collapsible laundry hamper there. Butterfly chair in the corner. And Gator gear all over. I can picture it now.

Right now I am jealous of all the students who headed back to school this week. These are some of the best years of their life. They’ll get fun, pep rallies, welcome back activities and much more. I get work, work and more work. It’s almost enough to drive me to tears. Then I start to think about the downsides of school: mid-terms, 10-page papers, all nighters, sitting in a boring class for 90 minutes or more and dealing with all the teenage and young adult drama. With that in mind, I think I’ll pass. I knew there was a reason I didn’t like school. My back to school blues are cured.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

a natural pat down

Going natural is perhaps one of the best decisions I have ever made for my hair. I love the texture and feel of it and enjoy experimenting with new styles. What I don’t love is people touching my hair without permission. I also wouldn’t be too keen on having it touched by the Transportation Security Administration. I came across an article on the New York Times website about a woman, Timery Nance, who said a T.S.A. officer patted down her hair even though she already went through the body scan.

According to the article:
She asked the screener why her hair was searched while others, including white women with ponytails or bushy hair, were simply waved through. “Is it just African-American women with natural hair who get the hair search?” she asked.
The screener said no, “but if you have certain kinds of ponytail or bun, you have to get your hair patted,” said Ms. Nance, who is 30.

The writer of the article also mentioned a second pat down incident:
On June 30, a young African-American woman, Laura Adiele, said that a screener at the Seattle-Tacoma airport insisted on patting down her hair, which was also natural and curly, even though the body scan had not set off an alarm. Ms. Adiele said in various interviews that she thought the search had been racially motivated.
The T.S.A. denies that. “All passengers are thoroughly screened coming through the screening checkpoint,” said Kristin Lee, a spokeswoman. “Additional screening may be required for clothing, headgear or hair where prohibited items may be hidden,” she said.

Safety is always important when flying, and I understand T.S.A. has a job to do, but I’m not quite sure how I would respond to a request for a hair pat down. Half the time my flights are extra early, so I’m already grumpy. Also I don’t wear a true afro very often, but you might catch my hair in a twist-out. However, with either style my hair is not that big or bushy to hide anything in it (other than a Bobby pin). Any screener would calmly get told no if they tried to pat down my hair. I can picture the headlines now: Florida woman arrested for refusing airport screening. On second thought, I’m even less a fan of ending up in the slammer with Big Shirley. So pat away T.S.A. Just know there will be a chronicle about it later.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The fictionalized truth

One of the top books on my summer reading list is “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett. I’ve been anxiously waiting to read the book since it came out. Unfortunately it’s so popular the library never has a copy available. Guess I’ll just see the movie adaption for now.

“The Help” opened today and stars Emma Stone (one of my favorite actresses), Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer and many others. The best-selling book is supposed to be a work of fiction and not based on any actual person, but a lawsuit says otherwise.

One day I'll get to read the book.
Ablene Cooper claims her name and likeness was used without permission as the basis of one of the main characters, Aibileen, in the book and movie. Cooper is the maid for Stockett’s brother and filed a lawsuit in February against the author asking for $75,000. Stockett’s lawyers want the lawsuit dismissed, and a hearing is set for Aug. 16.

According to an Associated Press article:
Stockett's refusal to admit that she based the character on Cooper's likeness "is so outrageous in character, and so extreme as to go beyond all bounds of human decency, and is utterly intolerable in a civilized community," says the lawsuit, which represents one side of a legal argument.
The lawsuit quotes passages from the book, including one in which Aibileen's character describes a cockroach: "He black. Blacker than me."
The lawsuit said Cooper found it upsetting and highly offensive to be portrayed as someone "who uses this kind of language and compares her skin color to a cockroach."
Among alleged similarities between Cooper and the character, Cooper said she lost a son shortly before going to work for Stockett's brother, where she takes care of two children, a boy and a girl. Cooper's lawsuit said that's the same as the character portrayed in the book.

Books usually have the disclaimer “Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead is entirely coincidental.” Still many writers get their inspiration from something or someone real. In my journalism classes we always learned “Truth is better than fiction.” Stockett very well could have been inspired to base Aibileen on Cooper. But she probably also took inspiration from other people. After all, she grew up with a maid in the house.

Perhaps it would have been wiser for Stockett to get a little more creative with the book’s details and distort the character enough so it was a composite of all her influences. That could have saved a lawsuit. Please believe if someone used my name and likeness without permission, I’m suing for at least a cool million. Hopefully the two parties will reach an agreement. Either way, I’m looking forward to reading the book and seeing the movie.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

I see good people

It always does my heart some good to see people showing kindness to others. Instantly I want to pay it forward and help someone else in need. Above all it restores my faith in the goodness of humanity.

Today while driving off from my favorite hangout, Walmart, I noticed a man on the side of the road with a sign asking for any food. “Poor man,” I thought. “I don’t have any change or food.” I was actually headed to get a snack myself and decided to get him something too. Situations like this already bring to mind Matt. 25:41-46 (read it sometimes). I’ve got enough things to atone for already. I don’t want to hear Jesus say one day “I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat.”

The light was taking forever to change, which gave me the opportunity to notice a few things. First the car behind me handed the man a bag of chips. Then I saw another man walking through the grass. I thought it was someone else needing food. He was actually bringing the first man a meal and drink. Both exchanges touched me and I started feeling all misty-eyed (I’m a bucket of tears). I almost missed the light from observing.

In case I ever end up on the side of the road.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve become cynical because of my job. I love what I do, but often I get to see the worse in people. Murder, mayhem and just plain madness reign supreme in the news. When there is “good news” people are often only motivated to do things for purely selfish reasons such as publicity. No one does a good deed just because it’s the right thing to do. Or so I think until I see something as simple as people giving a hungry man food. Then I remember the words of Anne Frank, “Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.”

This world is very much an ugly place at times. People are often at odds with each other. But that can’t stop us from showing the good in us. If nothing else, today’s happening helped me become a little less jaded by the world and more enthused to do some good in it.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

RIP Black Sitcoms

There are no good black sitcoms on television anymore. Gone are the days of quality programs, such as “The Cosby Show.” The only sitcoms on right now reflecting black culture are unfunny, trashy or just downright bad. I’m talking to you “House of Payne.” And you need cable to even watch these shows. What happened to simply switching on NBC, ABC or Fox?
Don’t get me wrong. I love a good sitcom, be it black, white or otherwise. “Community,” “Modern Family” and “Parks and Recreation” are among the best shows on TV right now. I just miss the days where if the show stars happened to look like me, it was actually good.

The black sitcoms I watched could fall into several categories:

Universal Appeal: These shows appealed to any and everyone, whether black or white.
The Cosby Show, Family Matters, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

The Classics: The Encyclopedia of Black Culture lists these as required viewing.
A Different World, Living Single, Martin, Moesha, Good Times, Sanford and Son, The Jeffersons

Honorable Mentions: Perhaps not classics, but just as good.
227, What’s Happening, One on One, Hanging with Mr. Cooper, Sister, Sister, The Parkers, Smart Guy

Underrated: Too many people slept on these shows.
Amen, Sparks, Roc, The Parent ‘Hood, Malcolm and Eddie, Everybody Hates Chris, Eve

Kid Friendly: Children and adults loved them.
Keenan and Kel, That’s So Raven, Cousin Skeeter, My Brother and Me

Big Time: Someone made it big and got his own show.
The Bernie Mac Show, The Jamie Foxx Show, The Steve Harvey Show, The Sinbad Show, The Gregory Hines Show, The Wayans Bros.

Guilty pleasures: So bad until it was entertaining.
Homeboys in Outer Space

Just OK: These shows weren’t bad, but weren’t really good either.
In The House, My Wife and Kids, Goode Behavior, Good News, The Hughleys, For Your Love

Gone too soon: They lasted only a season but had the promise of being entertaining.
On Our Own, Out All Night, Thea
Who doesn't miss these shows?

They just don’t make ‘em like this anymore. Are all the good black sitcoms dead? Me thinketh yes. At least there’s TV One where I can watch reruns of some of my favorites.