My Funny Valentine

Sunday, I picked up the most adorable designer Valentine’s day card and got it autographed by its lovely and talented artist, Bella Pilar.

I’m giving it to myself.

You’re welcome.

Whatever. To the outside world, it may appear a little sad, desperate, and perhaps even certifiable… but I promise it makes perfect sense.

For starters, the card was free… scored it at the Papyrus stand at Fashion Week. The marketing guy appreciated the genuine enthusiasm my friend and I have for custom stationery. What can I say? We’re traditional girls who like sparkly, decorated cards that pack a punch no text or email could ever give.

Next, I think I’ve been an awesome date to myself lately. I’ve taken me to a hot concert, the inauguration, a spa, the movies, a chocolate tour, and an aerial circus class; where I gracefully dangled in the air like that kid in the Dreamworks logo.

And finally… why shouldn’t I declare love for myself?

I gotta say that’s a nifty departure from what had steadily become the norm of waiting. And wanting. And hearing things like “I used to give my ex-wife flowers so I don’t do that anymore” or “I don’t do Valentine’s Day” by guys who probably would not have liked to hear me say “I used to do that , but I don’t do that anymore.”

Admittedly, I’m not a fan of the concept of St. Valentine’s Day. The massacre part intrigues me more. I feel like it grabs us by our privates and forces us to declare affection for people whether we love them — or like them just a little — literally and figuratively at our own expense. For loving couples, it’s an adorable addition to their romantic routines. For the rest of us, it’s akin to being eight years old and having a relative command you to go hug the urine scented elder, when you’d rather be climbing trees or playing “hide and don’t seek” with said unsuspecting relatives.

Either you dread the idea of spending absurd amounts of money on dinners, fragrances, themed underwear that does not have pictures of Spiderman on them, jewelry and whatever you haven’t thought of, or worse… you dread acknowledging that you have no one to get or give anything.

As a result, you’re now confined to your home to avoid being that person in a theater or a restaurant without a plus one. You become that salty person who gets annoyed by the PDA of couples and (sometimes) quietly predict their demise. You contemplate going places where you know there’ll be heavy V-day activity because single people occasionally garner pity from the staff and you feel affirmed by their inquiry as to why you’re single and shower you with compliments to make you feel (and tip) better. You will yourself not to scream, or cry, or punch someone in the face because someone actually thought it was a good idea at the time to show them in the corniest… sweetest… most imaginative way… that the recipient of their “valentine” is ostensibly the owner of their heart.

So this year, I’m proud — no, excited — to say I am the sole owner of my heart… and as such, I feel the need to express it in the silliest, cutest way imaginable. And if that means I get a sparkly card… then dammit, it’s gonna be the BEST sparkly card EVER!!

Did I mention it was Papyrus? Did I mention it was free? Do you KNOW how much those babies go for? It’s like the Tiffany’s of greeting cards!

As sociopathic as it may be to give oneself a card inscribed “XOXO from me to you”, it’s not as crazy as never having the kind of self adoration where you realize it’s okay to fly solo. It’s better than being with someone who makes you feel alone.

Love who you are. Love who you’re not. Celebrate your kindness. Your compassion. Your humor. Your intelligence. Your individuality. Your bravery. Your quirks. Your generosity.

And if you’re an asshole… celebrate your ability to not give a fuck.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Love,

Me

 

 

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In Slave

It’s February already.

The shortest month of the year, and the only one where you could run into timekeeping issues with your age if you were born at the very end of it during a Leap one. Thankfully, my dad dodged that bullet by a day… although sometimes I felt it would’ve explained a lot of his behavior.

It is also most notably Black History Month, which used to mean reports and special school plays in honor of famous people of color during my childhood.

Today, it means I spend the weekend watching the NAACP awards, frying shrimp the way my grandmother taught me in Savannah, catching “Django Unchained” finally, and taking to Twitter to read and review commentary on the performances and ads during the Super Bowl while simultaneously trying to watch the game and contain my audible reactions to the game. All in that order.

Like most New Yorkers, I went into watching this game more for the ads and Beyonce’s halftime show because the Giants weren’t in it and could therefore care less who won. I moderately appreciate football as a sport, but fully enjoy the uniforms and the use of words like “tight end”. I’m crass. Get over it.

That said, it turned out to be an awesome game.

But the NFL went full-on “Sista-girl power” with a line up that began with Jennifer Hudson and Alicia Keys, and ended with that fem-bot Sasha Fierce leaving no questions about live performances… or why she now performs without the other members of Destiny’s Child. It was like a precursor to the Essence Music Festival.

Anyway, back to the point of this story…

The NAACP awards turned out to be emotionally overwhelming. After tearing up from the story of Vice Admiral Michelle Howard, I was then struck by the iconic moment of Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte standing on stage together, as the former presented the latter with the Spingarin award in recognition of his tireless charity work. That’s when the cosmic shift in the room occurred.

Mr. Belafonte is no stranger to calling out black celebrities for not taking a more active role in enriching the lives and opportunities of the black youth. But on this particular night, he used his moment in the spotlight to challenge all of them to use their influence to make and be the change needed in the communities to ensure kids today are educated instead of incarcerated. His speech was so moving, it jarred Jamie Foxx to the point of getting him to stray from his rehearsed speech of the season (only briefly, unfortunately).

For me, it sparked thoughts of the days when black actors were “actorvists”, and entertainers were outspoken in their community and in turn the community responded. Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, Poitier and Belafonte, Paul Robeson. All walked alongside the legendary Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcom X. Today, the number of celebrities willing to get their hands dirty are few, with exceptions such as Don Cheadle, who after making “Hotel Rwanda”, began campaigning and co-authored a book in efforts to end genocide in Darfur. The going trend is now to sign large tax-deductible checks or make photo-scripted appearances to boost one’s PR.

His speech stayed with me as I watched “Django”, which, when one isn’t focused on the graphic and gratuitous violence or the use of the N-word, you can appreciate for what it is: a good — no, great — revenge fantasy. Just like “Inglorious Basterds” before it, this movie takes a very real and very traumatic page in history for a race of people and asks the question “what if the tables were turned?” If you go looking for inaccuracies or expecting to be offended, you completely miss the true story buried within; the one where slaves were whipped, torn apart by dogs, put in “hot boxes”, and subjected to numerous atrocities — least of which is being called an N-word — worst of all being conditioned to betray and mistrust each other for their own survival.

And there it is… centuries later, we’ve become our worst enemies .

As Mr. Belafonte calls for an end to the penitentiary mindset that has been steadily crippling our communities over the last few decades, the city of Chicago has just tallied over forty homicides just in the month of January. Before the ball dropped to mark the end of 2012, they had notched over 500 murders in total for the year. Crime in minority neighborhoods have risen with the desperation of those who see more opportunity in guns, drugs, and professional sports than with degrees or specialized training for careers that can’t be outsourced.

It’s become customary to point the finger of blame at our lighter-hued counterparts for the lack of progression in our community, but we are squarely to blame for it. When we fail our children by denying them basic things such as quality education, stable and healthy home environments and just a strong sense of pride and self, we set up the future generations to follow suit.  When we put programs on where our women fight over men and money, put out songs that glorify violence and misogyny, and teach our kids at a young age to value expensive, high-tech and designer items they can’t possibly afford  — we are mixing a recipe for disaster. We are enslaving ourselves.

I’m sure they’d be remiss to admit it, but if Spike Lee had done that movie instead of Quentin Tarantino, they would be hailing him as a genius for sparking a conversation about slavery that hasn’t been explored since “Roots”. Personally, I think Spike should have done the film, so more people would be talking about it instead of fixating on a word.

It’s great that we celebrate the achievements of accomplished people of color. It would be even greater if we didn’t just allot a month out of an entire year to make them feel special. It’s almost akin to picking one day out of the other 364 to express your love for someone (hmmm… coincidence that it’s the same month?). It would be fantastic if we could make a habit out of excellence, instead of pointing people out like zoo animals, but I guess in some way it inspires one to aspire to something more.

But enough about this.

How about those Super Bowl commercials?