Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday, October 15, 2010

That's Not What I think It Is...Is It?

A few days ago I was invited to the home of a family whose children attend the same school as my child. The mother of those children heads a volunteer committee for which I have signed up to help with and this was an invitation to mingle with the other volunteers over coffee. I gladly accepted and showed up at the appointed hour to a stately home in the mostly toney Lincoln Park neighborhood.

I walked into a sea of Laura Ashley powder blue s with floral motifs, 20 foot vaulted ceilings a great room with a gorgeous credenza and dining set adjacent to a cozy living area replete with fireplace. It was just as I told her, "A lovely home".

I chatted with four or five other parents who had come for the coffee, fresh fruit kabobs and miniature cinnamon rolls served on china with monogrammed paper napkins. Delightful as it was to speak to the other adults, when conversations drifted, I found myself drawn to certain parts of the decor. The genuine, antique, gold framed mirror with matching candle sconces over the sideboard was a nice touch.

As I turned to make my withdrawal and to make parting niceties with the homeowner, I noticed a staircase that led to a lower level of the house that I hadn't seen previously while circulating the room. The berber carpet let me know that it was the family room, the place where the kids go to play on the Wii probably. Maybe the father watched footballs games there; totally appropriate for such uses. What struck me as quite odd and perhaps inappropriate was the piece of art one passes on the way to the Nintendoverse--an at least 16 x 16 pencil and charcoal sketch/rendition of what could only be interpreted as the Hottentot Venus.

Woah! Trying to disguise my double take between words coming out of her mouth that at this point I couldn't even remember under hypnosis, I was taken aback by the display. Politely smile...politely smile....okay look again. What is that? Is that? Is she...nude bending over as if on a beach looking for seashells, full breasts cascading toward lava belly rolls and jiggly thighs spilling into an over plump bottom...face forward smiling. I think to myself her head is too small for her body. I think to myself, is she really smiling? Is she happy to be up on the wall of this white woman's house? What AM I looking at here?

It was getting awkward for me I have to admit. I wasn't sure what I was looking at or if I was comfortable with what I was seeing. But the biggest dilemma was most importantly, what reflection into this family was this particular expression of art giving me? All the while, I pretended to be present with the ongoing discussion as I prepared my exit. I wanted to take a closer look. I was intrigued. I wanted to ask the owner about this selection. Was it the kids nanny on a trip to Jamaica? Someone they knew or an artist on the street of a family vacation whose work they just had to have? So many scenarios to choose from. Why didn't I just ask her?

For a brief instant I did think to inquire about the artwork. It was provocative and maybe offensive and that is why I chose, in the home of someone I barely knew, to mind my manners and keep my mouth shut. I made up my mind that we all get to live the way we see fit. I pretended that it was not the Hottentot Venus and I stilled my thoughts and reinserted my mind into the conversation. "Oh yes, it's ride or walk to school week. We'd like to do it, but haven't so far. You neither--oh well, that makes two of us!"

I'm going to encounter more offensive things than that. Art is subjective it's intent is to evoke emotion. She has a good piece there for that. I don't know if any of the other parents noticed at all. My experiences probably give me a different angle on it anyway. My skin color and body type perhaps make me too sensitive about seeing what is essentially me, my mother, my grandmother on that wall.

I feel good about moderating my thoughts and comments. I truly feel better having kept my head in a calm place although my heart was racing over the idea that I was looking at some racist depiction of the black woman in the home of this Caucasian. I was controlled, poised, and beautiful. I was powerful and attractive and it showed. It was mature and distinguished behavior and I'm so proud to live in the knowledge that Moderation is Sexy.

Friday, October 1, 2010

An exercise...really?

Guess who's guess who's guess who's BACK? Yes, ladies and germs, it's The Sexy Moderate. Sorry to stay away so long. But life is funny that way, wouldn't you agree?

I got pretty jazzed about revisiting my old blog. When I looked back on some of the posts I wrote I got more excited about coming back with some real focussssss to this "exercise". I had to read the header to actually remember why I started this blog in the first place--oh yeah--it was an exercise in write five days a week.

Did I really say five days a week. It's a good thing I didn't say eight. But, looking at the abysmal failing of this goal, I am able to see more deeply into myself. I had a really strong start and got progressively worse. It's embarrassing to say I did not meet said goal or even come close. My interest and commitment faltered and it leaves me to wonder, "Is this an indication of the true me?"

The optimistic me believes that it is not the true me and that I had a myriad of reasons why i couldn't continue with the exercise or project. The pessimistic me says, "Oh you knew it would be like this, as it's like many things in your life--a huge start and then a weepy stop." Or is that the realistic me?

So which side is right or wrong? I should believe in myself in spite of my shortcomings. At least I think so. I should not delude myself with untruths and false meanderings. At least I know so. However, t gets more difficult every moment to determine what is the lie and what is the T R U T H .

I know I had reasons (oh so many reasons) for giving up the blog. I think if I were the more determined kind of person--deep deep inside--I would have found a way to get it done. I feel lazy and lackluster for failing. I feel like a fraud for breaking a promise to myself and you. But I feel real too. Human and relate-able.

Don't we all have this "quality"? Does it make us less than perfect or more than ridiculous to consider from where it comes and if it means anything at all? I don't have all the answers. I'm finding new discoveries about myself and other people every day. But I'll tell you, I'm not wracking my brain over these dilemmas. No. I give my mind time to digest the conundrum, to immerse the dilemma and regurgitate the answers as they occur. Never in a hurry to get to the end, I take things in moderation...and I hope, I truly do, that you will too.

Monday, March 1, 2010

There's Something About Detroit

There’s just something about…


When I was 16 I went to live in Detroit for a summer. My sister had a baby and needed help with her toddler and now her new baby, a preemie the size of my palm. It was the summer of love actually, for me. I fell in love with the city of Detroit, the boy down the street whose folks owned a local deli, but mostly, I fell in love with Detroit radio.

I would do everything I could to help around the house spending time with my niece when my sister and her husband were at the hospital for hours on end. I had unlimited money and use of a car and so I taught myself how to get around Detroit. Some days I’d drive east on 8 Mile to the Lodge Freeway and ride downtown. On other days I’d drive south towards Grand and go as far east as I could and end up on Lake Shore Drive. While there was no comparing Detroit’s LSD to Chicago’s, it was still a lovely ride.

I spent a lot of time in malls as the Detroit area has some of the largest and fanciest. I took my niece to ballet class in Dearborn – a suburb we reached via the Southfield Freeway. We visited Windsor just to go to Canada. I felt like a stranger in a familiar land and I liked that feeling. Detroit is as special as it is seedy and you can’t put your finger on why that's the case.

It took me at least two months to get acquainted with the cute boy in the house down the street. He always made it home by 5:30 and I always made a point to be outdoors. Each day our eyes would stare longingly into the other’s as he passed our house. He would pull into the driveway and park, and stare at me all the way to the door of his home. I guess we were both too shy to go beyond that at first. When we finally did talk it was as if we couldn’t get enough of knowing each other. He was a year younger than me, played baseball and worked in his parent’s deli afternoons.

I went to the deli to see him one day after we broke our silence. He had an amazing smile and the whitest teeth I’d ever seen. He gave me a corned beef sandwich for free. We would spend my last days in Detroit together in the evenings when he’d return home, sitting outside on the porch or in the grass, sharing a hug, a touch of the hand or a simple kiss. Soon I would return to Chicago to leave for my first year of college.

Having a summer love in a new city was truly special, but before I found Johnny, I found one thing that was truly different about Detroit and made me love it all the more and that was its radio stations. I had my first Walkman that summer so I spent hours tuning it to hear what was being played and found plenty to love about Detroit music. I often stayed up late into the early morning with my headphones on, listening to Detroit’s strange brew.

For one, the formats there seemed to be much freer than Chicago’s. Perhaps it was the proximity of such colleges as U of M, MU or Wayne State as college radio is by most accounts a slurry of all kinds of independent music making for an eclectic mix. Detroit’s stations seemed to be continuing that aesthetic or maybe I was actually listening to college stations?

One station I found turned me on to the early punk incarnation of the Beastie Boys, and another band who called themselves The Cure. I also heard a lot of “Rock Over London” and got very acquainted with a band call King. I hunted down their music in the mall record store and ended up with several cassettes; one of which was The Cure’s, Staring at The Sea: The Singles. I found “Killing An Arab” to be mind-blowing.

Sometimes I would hear a station that played all kinds of house and funky music like Kraftwerk, Devo, B-52’s and that ilk. It made me feel like I was home although it wasn’t exactly a house mixshow like on Chicago’s WBMX, its sameness had just enough difference to keep me excited. What I didn’t know then but realize now is that I may have been listening to the legendary one the pioneers always talk about, Electrifying Mojo.

Yet still other stations were quite rap heavy, a place Chicago hadn’t dared go, so I heard plenty of the best east coast rap coming from NYC--another treat to my ears. With so much diversity on the dial I can see why Techno would naturally emerge from Detroit.

My “Summer of Love” culminated with a trip to Woodward Avenue and the landmark Fox Theater where I would catch the “My Adidas” tour that featured Run DMC (who’s same titled album had blown up that summer), along with LL Cool J, Whodini and a little known punk band made up of three boorish characters name Ad Rock, Mike D & MCA.

About ten years after that I would be engaged in my first year of being known as DJ Lady D and meet some of my heroes of Detroit techno. I always made a point to talk to the guys when they came to play. Derrick May was an outgoing dude who’d answer all your questions and make you laugh like crazy. Carl Craig was a bit more mysterious and always gracious. Juan Atkins was pretty funny and liked to mix it up with folks. I also got my first of several invitations to play in Detroit when Jennifer Witcher aka DJ Minx hosted me for my debut in the Motor City. Since that time, I’ve formed bonds with many of my peers in Detroit that can’t be broken; symbolic of Chicago’s immense love for Detroit and Detroit’s intense love for Chicago. After all, I-94 is a two way street.

If you ever get the chance to visit Detroit and meet some of its citizens, I know you will enjoy your stay. I liken it to that flower in the concrete that, even after hardship, somehow manages to surface and bloom. That is Detroit. Capital improvements to the city have made the roads easier to navigate and new hotels and buildings show signs of life in a once flatlined market. If you get the chance to go during the Movement festival this year, I think you’ll see what I mean and I do recommend you go. Detroit can be your Johnny, and if you stare long enough, you could fall in love.

Signing off,

The Sexy Moderate

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Rainbow Lifestyle...Is It For You?

In a recent tweet, I mentioned I liked a particular song by The Time about interracial love and the next thing I know, I'm being followed by Interracial Love Magazine.

I checked out their Twitter page and really couldn't tell who was behind the scenes. But from the look of it, I guess I imagined it was a youngish black woman. When I sent out a tweet saying if you tweet the word interracial you will be followed by Interracial Love Mag, they sent me a reply saying I was beautiful AND smart (apparently other people they do this to don't make the association). I just assumed this was a woman starting this website and sending back a fellow sister a compliment. Don't ask me why I thought it was a black woman, maybe it was the way their Twitter page looks or maybe it was their tweets which seemed to be frequent and of a vernacular of sorts i.e., "check us out, boo".

Staring at the link on their page, I decided to "check out" their website so I clicked myself a new tab and discovered after some surfing of the site that it is: run by a white man and is specifically for white men and black women who want to describe or ask questions about dating one another. Very niche.

In my own life I have dated men of many races and ethnicities and I can say I probably have had my share of white men, both from choice and necessity. Going to a mostly white college left little same race choices and honestly it's never been an issue to me who I dated as long as I liked that person enough.

Having gotten to this point in life, I have to say I'm seriously in awe of some of the things I read at Interracial Love Mag. For instance, the posting that this person wrote about specifically having a preference of this to that but not in that vague sort of a way, but to say I specifically only like "chocolate" ladies. I'm perplexed and bewildered about what that is all about.

Now this is the exact opposite of John Mayer who's penis apparently runs from the site of the pretty brown round, this man is basically saying I stop at nothing to get my brown sugar. I read with great interest the piece about "Why Do Black Women Lie on Their Online Dating Profiles?" as well as the spotlight given to how Halle Berry seems to be much happier now with a white guy.

If I had to think about the motivation behind anyone I've ever dated of any race at all, it's been their character that has drawn me in the most. OK in college, when I wasn't someone's girlfriend, it was about physical attraction generally. But overall, it's a person's spirit I connect to the most. I live interracially ergo I date interracially and to me INTER-RACIAL means something completely different than WM ISO BW.

I just question the impulse that says I'm really turned on first and foremost by the color of a person's flesh mainly because in my fake experiment, given the choice between a person and their clone, one black and one any other race, based on what I see here, the end result would always be the choice of the black person. That's like a fetish to me. Imagine my surprise when I read further into his posts that he warns black women from being anyone's fetish or that someone's attraction could just be skin deep. What am I missing?

I'm just wondering if there isn't some lonely woman somewhere that this man could be suited for best but they aren't getting a fair shot because you have a "thing" for black women. I've dated enough white men to know, the ones who go out looking for a black woman specifically and vice versa, the black women who only want to date white men, may have more issues than they are willing to admit. I'm just saying....

But I can applaud this mag for at least bringing out in the open something that complements the general idea of love for black women, especially when you have folks like John Mayer running off at the mouth. In a tiny bit warped way, it says to other white people who are notoriously anti-interracial dating that there is nothing wrong with it and that it's even, gasp, enjoyable.

Dating around the rainbow, as I like to call it, puts love for all humankind first, keeps racism at bay, fetishes in check, and allows you to put things in their proper perspective as experience would likely encourage a certain level of understanding that comes from interrelatedness. Looking at a person's spirit, soul and energy as a litmus test for attraction is a really desirable place to be and that has very little to do with the color of skin. It's definitely moderate and most definitely sexy. Try it...if you dare!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

N Words, John Mayer etc...

Ah John Mayer. There's always been something wrong with him but it was easy to overlook...before now.

Lately he's been all over the news right? Saying one thing or another that's been misunderstood or misconstrued but saying things that have become progressively more bizarre.

So he doesn't stand at attention for black girls...and he used the word n****r.... In context what he said was not disagreeable. Like a friend of mine tweeted, "Is it really all that bad... I mean really?"

The whole fuss is reminiscent of a couple historical moments for me. Howard Cosell yelling, "Look at that little monkey go"...a joke my father and I shared which makes me laugh to this day. The second was the time I went to watch March Madness my 4th year of college at my neighbors house with all my guy friends. We all just sat watching the game and my friend Chuck didn't like a play one of the players made and inadvertently said something like, Pass the ball...fucking lazy n*****r". Everyone glared at Chuck! He looked at me and froze. Time really did stop. He was probably saying he was sorry or something but I didn't hear him. My ears were burning from heat and I excused myself quickly from the room and walked across the street, back to my own home.

The funny thing was I could care less about the actual word. He was being himself I suppose. I think it was two things actually: that it was a side I'd never seen of him and I was offended he would say it in my presence. Just give me the courtesy of not having to be present when you're running off at the mouth that way, if that's your thing.

He apologized later by coming to see me...a few of our friends came by too to say, he didn't mean anything by was a slip up, that it wasn't really him, he just gets worked up about sports. Yada yada yada. I still found myself bothered by it but I didn't exactly know how to remain true to my feelings when we had been, until then, rather close friends. I was learning in that exact moment if I could keep the friend but not condone the action.

How did I feel? I asked myself over and over and mostly came up with I thought it was beneath him to use the language. He was a smart guy, I'd always viewed him as more evolved than most. He played football and basketball--the team sports most responsible for the majority of our university's 1% black enrollment--he seemed to get along real well with all his teammates. In that sense it was a huge disappointment. I didn't think of myself as harboring the word honky or cracker anywhere in my repressed psyche just waiting to unfurl it in a moment of frustration, "DAMN YOU WHITEY-ARRRRGH!"

No, it really never was put away somewhere like that, although I can confess to having moments where I just couldn't explain a particular behavior and just summed it up as "that's just white people". Like when my college roommate started a food fight with the cake my parents brought down from graduation as my mother stood in our off campus house, appalled. Is it the same? I suppose that's a relative thing since I would say no, but I'm most certain there's a white person somewhere saying yes as they read this post.

When he came to apologize I really just wanted to know if it was something he said all the time or something he truly believed about the person he was saying it about...and he said no but I wasn't convinced so I grilled him some more. Later in the conversation he admitted to using it sometimes but not really meaning anything by it and since he was a pretty cynical and critical guy about lots of people of all nations, I tended to believe that more than anything else. I also asked him if he thought of me and that term in the same way...definitely not was his reply.

I wanted to forgive Chuck but it stung me that he would say it in a room full of people--our peers, our friends--without notice for me and that I could be or might be offended by virtue of being the only someone of the same race in the room--even if I weren't actually offended, even if he didn't really mean anything. You know, just looking out for a friend, on general principle. I felt like I had been fooled by him and I didn't know how to take that type of humiliation.

The weeks after the incident I remained distant though it wasn't genuine anger, I can say now, in retrospect, I just felt uncomfortable letting him off the hook too easily. He should suffer a bit I thought. After about a month, he said to me something like, hey I apologized and if you want to still be my friend cool, if you don't cool, but I'm probably done apologizing, besides I don't know what else you want from me. It was a mistake.

And with that I let it all go. Unfortunately it's just hard to get back to where you were; a little air had escaped from the ball and it never bounced as high. When we graduated that May we said congrats and gave each other a knowing look. I remembered him fondly and the way we used to be together. When we co-captained our bowling team, "Four White Guys & a Black Girl Named Dar" we all laughed at and accepted his name suggestion since it was crazy and steeped in realism. But maybe that should have been an indicator of something? We weren't the Strikers or the 10 Pins or some other clever yet traditional bowling pun. Just maybe all the writing was on the wall that he wasn't being clever; he was being sardonic and he couldn't help himself from viewing things in black and white. Who knows?

As for John Mayer, well, he's going to figure it out and I'm sure his friends will help him. Those who are offended by his comments may get over them in time, some won't and still others will treat him good (and I mean that in the black way, that he will get treated -verbally assaulted for those who don't understand,i.e., treated). Still more will attempt to overlook, and even more will try to understand--some of whom actually will.

When I think about these recent events, Mayer is a lot like my friend Chuck in the way that their grossness came as a surprise because it was never on display before--always masked by their quick wit, sarcasm and racial openness--it would not have been something you would imagine coming from that person.

But in general, I have nothing to say about his statements, his characterization of his member or his apology. I will say this however, if he practiced more moderation in his comments, he'd be a whole lot sexier right about now.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Ron Arad: No Discipline

Ron Arad: No Discipline
Originally uploaded by jenlen
an art show on the very subject...


I think I love to think of myself as a writer but don't love to do the writing. I was not going to write tonight. But I have to and I am working my last nerve with this...discipline thing.

To be steadfast to something is to summon every fiber of your being and submit to doing what is necessary. In a relationship it's staying true to the other person. In work, it's adhering to office protocol and fulfilling duties, in parenthood it's behaving selflessly and providing for the lives with which you are now responsible. It all takes discipline.

At times I've been in all those categories and admittedly I didn't always possess the discipline expected of me. It's a daily commitment and I can tell you it has been a struggle in every aspect of my life to have all the discipline needed day in and day out. I do personally feel bad about it; I have guilt about times I was supposed to be modeling leadership behavior but instead appeared lazy.

I don't know if there is a connection between being marginally successful and being a dynamo that relates to discipline, but I could gander there is one. I feel I have yet to reach the threshold of unlimited success because I lack a steady discipline. I do work diligently--in spurts. I have doubts about my level of success that are tied to all the days I say "screw it" to myself and procrastinate on work and projects that I assign to myself.

I know that I'm fine taking a bit of time off, but when I exceed a moderate amount, there goes the guilt and in comes the shame. How can you bounce back from that one-two punch? It's a lot to gather strength and fight the good fight knowing your efforts won't be wasted. When I begin to falter, the cycle will feel repetitive but nevertheless comforting. I don't know if it's avoidance or depression or both. In my case, it could be minute amounts of each. (In the winter I'm even more aware of it which is another reason I must apply self control and stick to the plan.)

I say minute because I am by most accounts a happy person and the one thing that gets my attention no matter what is my child. I never skimp on him, so I feel empowered knowing that I have that priority which always takes precedence. I am disciplined about my child. As a woman, single, in the city however, it's not uncommon to feel a little bit deflated by it as well. I love being a mother, but I think I would equally enjoy being a wife. I just don't have a social life. [Here's where I admit to going on one date last year and only having, er, um, relations, once.]

Mothers like me know, we put our kids first, single moms know keeping the money coming in comes second and we might make ourselves a distant third. That being the case I told myself this year I would loosen up a bit and begin to explore more options. I'll admit to being a little staid in the past but I think this year I may be more disciplined in attending more events and getting out there to meet new people.

But I know that discipline starts with a little thing like this blog...and writing everyday. If, just if, I can tackle something like this and prove to myself it can be done by a free spirited person like me, then I will know that I truly hold the world in my hands. I can know it's not out of my control as I so often feel, regardless of the mantras I repeat: you got this, you can do it, it's up to you. Everyone has moments of weakness so I'm not knocking my mantras--they give me the positive mental affirmation I need to do what's needed and live fearlessly. But I'm no fool either--I'm a vulnerable, single mom and if I don't acknowledge that, I couldn't live authentically on this planet. No man is an island right?

At times I'm wrought with uncertainty, fear, helplessness, anger, impatience, and doubt. I often feel like a fraud in the world I'm thrust into - volunteer at school, mentor to children and adults. I sometimes have no idea how I'll pay all the bills! But image wise I must appear to know and it's not that easy putting on a brave face. Somehow these things work out though, don't they? At least they do for me.

Maybe that's belief. Just maybe, through the doubt,impatience, anger, helplessness, fear and uncertainty, my belief in myself gets me through. My belief in a higher power tells me I'm here to succeed. I should have no concept of failure because I'm here for bigger things, if I can only persevere.

Discipline: I have it but I want to apply it more universally, more moderately, with fewer starts and stops and so I'm working on page at a time.

Monday, February 8, 2010

To write...or not to's not a question

I fell off the wagon. My goal was to write at least five days a week and I only wrote once last week. I've got to get back on the wagon-tonight.

When I get busy the first thing to go is the thing I need to do the exercise or in this case WRITE.

Alcoholics talk about falling off the wagon but I hear in some AA circles you're not supposed to actually say that or acknowledge there is a wagon to fall off. Something about the language and choice of metaphors allows you a "story" to fall back upon instead of taking responsibility for your actions. The idea is basically that if there is no wagon to begin with, there isn't one to fall off of you see.

I get it. But why does it sound so right to say? I had a plan and then I didn't stick to said plan. I'm not beating myself up so don't get the wrong idea. The one thing I didn't take into account when I so aptly subtitled my blog was that there would be times when my schedule wouldn't permit me to write without actually having to stay awake for 48 hours straight. Since I never chose to do that for the sake of publishing text to this blog, I didn't mind when I was faced with three serious deadlines and had nary a spare moment to put fingertip to keyboard.

The most difficult thing about starting and stopping a project is losing momentum. The first month of this journey was exciting because I had to prove to myself that it could be done. Having a week away, or reprioritizing the goal to write among other pressing duties, has made it much harder to get back on the horse (and the wagon)! I feel much like I felt the week that I began writing: slow...wondering what to write...asking where do I begin? So I find myself lamenting about it here to you when maybe I could be touching upon a much more provocative subject.

But the idea is to write; not necessarily what subjects on which I will write. The simple act of exercising my mental acumen for writing and disciplining myself for longer more involved writing projects down the line is what I aim for with Moderation Is Sexy. I figured topics would come later--unfolding like cake batter into a greased 9X13 pan. In other words, after the combining and mixing, finding the actual ideas on which to expound would be the easy part of my task. Unfortunately where I am is almost back at the beginning.

For moderation's sake, let me not linger here too long.

Signing off,

The Sexy Moderate

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Damn the Internet

Why is it that every time I go to read a story on the Internet the comments below it almost always digress to racial attacks and name calling?

I get anxiety as I read Internet comments because I hear people stupidly attacking one another for exprerssing an opinion. Should everyone just shut up and let the writer do the talking then or can we agree to disagree without resorting to personal or cultural attacks?

I recently read a blog about Vanity Fair's lack of minority faces on its cover featuring Hollywoods up and coming actresses. The writer pointed out this fact and that was that. He didn't challende VF to do better, he merely reported that some people had noticed and didn't like it. The commentary below it within just a few comments had escalated to such insulting stances as , "stop cramming the race card down my throat" and "I only want to hear from oppressed people of the Holocaust because they are still here, where is the last slave?" Ok I am paraphrasing...but you can read it here.

Perception is a crazy thing. *TBC