February 22, 2013

Get on the Bus

What did he say he wanted to do on Saturday again? Jamie's list of to-do's scrolled through my mind as I drove to work: a trip to the store here, an errand there, another errand across town, maybe sledding, maybe work on the basement redo. Next thing I know, it'll be Sunday which means church, errands after church, maybe a nap. Then dinner.

Then Monday. Again.

My rant was interrupted by the slippery road indicator light blinking at me as my tires spun a through a four-inch snow "drift." Overtired, I giggled at the thought of a four-inch snow drift and remembered the time I got caught in a real blizzard.

In 1996, I was a faithful bus rider (faithful because I had no car, but that's another story). From our bachelorette apartment, it took a forty-five minute ride east on the Route 57 downtown, then another twenty-minute stretch northward on the Route 30 to my job at St. Mary's Hospital. At the end of the day, the rides were reversed.

This particular day, I heard the morning's prediction for an afternoon snowfall, but gave it little attention. By 5:00, the city was buried in a total and complete blizzard. Snow was blowing sideways, visibility was next to nothing and Lake Drive traffic looked more like Sunday morning than a weekday rush hour. After making it to the bus shelter, I silently thanked God for giving the city planners enough sense to build the little plexiglas havens and waited for the 30.

And waited.

I wasn't surprised at the wait. After all, this was a Snowmageddon.

Twenty-five minutes passed. The cold had turned my toes into rocks and I couldn't feel my nose anymore when I heard "Hey!" Seriously? Catcalls in this weather? Again: "Hey!" It was coming from a bus driver of a 30 going in the opposite direction. "Your bus isn't coming!" It didn't compute. I stared like he had grown a second head. Of course my bus is coming. Buses always come -- just like the mail.

"Your. Bus. Isn't. Coming!" he repeated. "You may as well get on this one."

What choice did I have? Sit there while appendages fell off as I waited for a phantom bus? I trudged across the street and boarded the steep stairs to the fare box. The driver smiled and fanned off my $1.35. It was a standing room only crowd, but I didn't care. It was warm. I joined the other south-going riders who were just as confused as I was, and we all rode together. Two hours and forty-five minutes later, I made it home.

The memory of it all had me reflecting on how different my life was back then: I had all time in the world to ride around on a bus headed in the wrong direction. No real responsibility other than paying my half of the rent and utilities. No Jamie. No Georgia. No Charley-the-Shih-Tzu-Poo.

So was I happier back then? Minimal responsibility doesn't necessarily equate to happiness or fulfillment.

I revisited my wistful rant and realized that I spend of lot time waiting for buses that aren't coming around at this phase of my life instead of being content. Too much time waiting for...
...the day we can stay at home and relax. That bus isn't coming.
...the day I'll catch up on sleep and wake up refreshed, not longing for another hour. That bus. Not coming.
... the day when everything'll be smooth sailing. That bus sure as heck isn't coming.
None of them are. At least anytime soon.

The Wife-and-Working-Mom-of-a-Ten-Year-Old Phase of life isn't a perpetual blizzard, but I figure the sooner I realize the buses I've been waiting on aren't heading my way, the sooner I can get a ride wherever I'm supposed to get it -- even if it's not on my scheduled route -- and end up where I need to be.

February 16, 2013

Scandal's Scandal Is No Scandal at All

Besides “Swamp People” and “Mad Men,” my favorite show is “Scandal.” Olivia Pope is the main character who’s known for “erasing” Beltway bigwigs’ career-threatening indiscretions. Impossibly beautiful, wicked-smart, put-together and cool as a cucumber, Olivia’s also in an on-again, off-again, rain-forest-steamy affair with the President of the United States. The married President of the United States. The white, married President of the United States. And he is yummy. But I digress.

Olivia Pope is black, which in this context, is an important fact. Personally, part of the show’s appeal is that color is immaterial to an already absorbing plot line that never descends into cheap racial characterizations or stereotypes. But I’m betting race will become an issue in the coming weeks. Not from within the show itself, but from the fans.

Here’s why: Olivia and the POTUS have put their relationship on ice (sort of) and a new love interest has appeared on the scene for our heroine. And he’s white too.

See where this is going yet?

Pretty soon, I’m sure there will be outcries of “Why can’t Olivia find a black man?” or “Why does Olivia only date white men?” Then outrage. Mixed couples and matchey-match couples will defend their choices on daytime TV and before you know it, Soledad O’Brien’s next CNN special will be Interracial Dating: Who’s Doing It and Why; Who Won’t Do It and Why Not. Just mark my words and put on your Gallagher-splatter jackets now because the messy talk is on its way.

The only reason I know it’s coming is because I’ve lived it. At least a little.

Jamie and I were both in our thirties when we got married, which means I was on the dating scene for some time before we tied the knot. (Too long for my liking because I hate dating.) Some – not all – of the pre-Jamie guys I dated happened to be white. This wasn’t intentional. In fact, I never even thought about it. I was just looking for someone who had similar musical taste, a dry-snarky sense of humor and common sense. And who was also not a stalker. Or a pathological liar. Or an embezzler. And good-looking. Definitely good-looking. If I’m being honest here, good-looking was probably higher on the priority list than it should’ve been, but um…yeah.

Anyway…during that time, I’d overhear comments like:
“Hrmmpf. She must think she’s too good for a black man.”
It'd make a twinge of embarrassment momentarily shudder down my spine only to be quickly replaced by indignation. They don't even know me. Do they have any idea that any man of any race potentially wears an invisible LOSER tattoo on his forehead that only materializes after a few months of dating? And for pete’s sake, if they want to cast any kind of judgment, why can’t they at least make it positive; or have they bought into negative images of black men so wholly that they can’t even bring themselves to think “Poor thing, she doesn’t think she’s good enough for a black man.” Then I’d think: Screw you. You’ve got issues.

After we were married I got smacked with this gem:
“Yeah. (indignant snort, condescending smile) Your husband looks just like I thought he would. (indignant snort again, head nod) You would be married to someone like him.”
That was from someone to whom I proudly showed our family picture after seeing the person for the first time in over ten years. It stung, because I knew this person well enough to know they were using the comment’s ugly subtlety to put my “blackness” on trial. I flashed back to good-natured jibes about me “dancing like a white girl” and thought maybe they weren’t so good-natured after all in retrospect. I knew the comment was intended to question my “authenticity,” as if my authenticity rested upon getting out there and matching up mate colors to prove how black I really am. Our miss-matchiness blinded them to the fact that I finally found someone who brought out the happy and settled in me. It was disappointing. You’d think at the very least, they would’ve commented on Jamie’s good-looks and what an adorable couple we made.
So I’ve been there; and if I could say anything to the out-cryers and out-ragers, it’d be what I've wanted to say to all the sigh-ers, hrrmpf-ers, and tsk-tskers who’ve crossed my path at one point or another in the past and will cross my path in the future:
The only statement that mixed couples are making is that they’re like everyone else, and just trying to find the person who’s right for them. Skin color is immaterial to them...and to the plot.

February 11, 2013

Every Kiss Begins with...Ahhh, Enough Already!

At the risk of sounding like an Unromantic-Grinchy-Hag, I’m going to say it: Enough with the Valentine’s Day badgering already!

But, Rochelle you say, I thought you were happily married and living the dream with a precious daughter and adorable little dog? Well, yes all of that’s true, but this year, the Valentine’s Day crush has, well…crushed the romance right out of the holiday.

Maybe it’s more accurate to say that I’m worn out on what peddlers peddle as “love.” Every card I find makes me throw up in my mouth a little: “To My Darling Husband, I need you in my life, in my world; I can’t live without you…” REALLY? Jamie and I love each other, but come on: we were both alive for thirty-plus years before we even knew the other existed. So the “can’t live without you” part. Spare me. Please.

Or the “Every kiss begins with Kay” commercials that make every woman who’s been in a relationship longer than five minutes believe that this February 14 will be The Day he pops the question. And the guys..oh, the poor guys. They’re roped into believing Valentine’s is the day when every man is either buying jewelry and/or assuming “the position.”

Listen up, Cutesy Couples: these Bling Peddlers are selling an Ask. Think of it like this: when a toddler asks for a bottle, he or she doesn’t need to sweeten the deal. Mom or dad gives them a bottle without expectation of receiving anything in return beyond meeting that simple basic need. That is an Ask. Not a Proposal. Proposals are something entirely different; and I know because in my line of work, I write them. They usually have two parts: The Ask, and The Promise. I ask for something (usually grant money) and I promise to give something in return (help to the less fortunate and donor recognition for the grant money).

You know…I think if Heather & Hunter (sounds like a cutesy couple, doesn’t it?) understood what a proposal was, they wouldn’t buy into what the Bling Peddlers are selling. Or conversely, if the Bling Peddlers portrayed what a proposal really is, there’d be less guys going into three months of debt on a shiny piece of carbon and happier couples all around.

In my Unromantic-Grinchy-Hag’s perspective, the portrayed proposal would go something like this:
[Hunter kneels, Heather blushes and gasps as Hunter opens the velvety box]
“Heather?” “Yes Hunter?” “Will you spend the rest of your life with me?”
[Stringed instruments fade in…]
“Hold the music for a minute, here. Hunter, don’t you have something else to give…I mean outside of the ring??”
“Well…I’m giving you my life, sweetheart.”
“Hmmmm….I guess so, but you’re gonna want kids, right?”
“Yes. Remember, we said we wanted two children and we’d name them Taylor and Tyler.”
“You do realize that means eighteen months of morning sickness, stretch marks, weight gain and who knows how many hours of labor for me. Not to mention time off work for prenatal wellness visits, since I’m assuming we’ll both need to work outside the home, right?”
“But, but, but…I…”
“And cooking too, huh? I’ll probably be in charge of meals…”
[Brightening up] “Remember, we talked about your dream kitchen?”
“Okay, let me see if I’ve got this straight: I’m having kids, raising them to be decent people, bringing home the bacon and frying it up in a pan.”
[Crickets chirping]
“It’s okay, honey. Let’s just move on. You look a lot like your dad. In fact, all the guys in your family look alike.”
[Hunter beams proudly]
“I like a receding hairline and a soft-middle as much as the next gal; and it’s probably safe to say that’s what you’ll be in about fifteen, twenty years from now, right?”
[Shoulders slump]
“…and let’s not forget that perfectionist-testy streak of yours…”
[Tears welling up]
“Just put the violins away, fellas. I guess a ring, no matter how big, is pretty puny for what I’m really asking of you.”
Of course it is!
Listen, there’s no carat weight that’s worth what I’m giving to you, nor can it measure what you’ll be giving me. From patiently putting up with my crazy PMS days when I inhale dill pickle potato chips and chocolate by the handfull and snap at you for exhaling when you should be inhaling, to the times when you meet me at the gas station because I can’t figure out how to refill the tires, to you getting up at 2:00am to investigate a strange sound even though you’re just as scared of it as I am. And my girlish figure? Who knows what’ll happen to it once my metabolism comes to a screeching halt!
It’s not about the ring.
It’s not about what letter “kiss” begins with.
It’s not an Ask. It’s a Proposal – on both our parts. So, I’ll accept your proposal…as long as you accept mine.
Okay…now start the music, guys.”