Monday, December 16, 2013

My Issues With The M.R.S.

My Issues with The Mrs.

While waiting to get a facial, I overheard the esthetician remark to a woman, “You better get that body in shape for that wedding.” I chuckled at the irony of the statement because I was perusing a book, If I’m Looking for a Prince, Why Am I still Kissing Frogs? And just as the esthetician’s words hit my ears, the words on the page jumped out at me: “Girls are socialized to expect few alternatives to being someone’s wife.” Still waiting for my turn, I read a little further: “Traditionally, women have been socialized to believe they need a man for financial security, emotional stability, and social status. The idea of becoming Mrs. So-and-so to gain entrance into the social circle has been an accepted practice.”

There it was—the hiss of —M.R.S. in my ear again. The idea of being The M.R.S. had been like hot breath on my neck, and I needed to deal with my issues with M.R.S. It started when I went to see Baggage Claim—a film that I knew would be a no-brainer comedy with a clichéd ending but promised lots of eye candy. So, I settled in for light entertainment, and while I was happy that her character’s wish came true, I was annoyed by the message: There’s no room in the world for us single girls.

Paula Patton’s character, Montana Moore is beautiful, witty and terribly flawed because for the life of her, she can’t get a husband! And to make matters worse, her younger sister has snagged a man and is engaged, and her multiple-married Mama doesn’t know what is wrong with Montana. The hunt for the husband is bananas! But it ends well because the man she’s looking for has been right there all the time. Don’t we always overlook the good ones? At least that’s what these men who are experts on women want us to believe—but that’s another story for another day.

I guy I used to date a guy sent me a text recently that said, “Hello Mrs. Gates.” And I replied, “Are you looking for my mother because I’m Ms. Gates.” We’ve known each other for years, so why he calls me by my mother’s name, I’ll never know. He got the message because the next message he sent was Mrs. Singleton—his last name. I laughed, not because he used his last name, but because it is common practice to date before getting married, and a few random text messages does not constitute dating. Or did I miss the new millennium dating memo?

I had a message on my voicemail from the women who periodically do housework for me. They also address me as Mrs. Gates, but I don’t bother to correct them. I shake my head and laugh because people are always giving me something I don’t have—a husband. It’s not that I’m anti-marriage; I’m still a sucker for a happily-ever after ending. But I don’t like being judged as less than a woman who happens to have a husband. I get the—what-is-a-good-woman-like-you-doing-single? or it-must-be-something-wrong-with-you-if-you’re-still-single lines all the time. I’d be better off if I say I’m divorced, but to be over 40 and never married—I’m definitely damaged goods! Why is my worth as a woman tied to my marital status?

I thought that if men didn’t have to be identified by their martial status, why did I? Married or single, a man is Mister, but a woman is Miss or Mrs. or now the more non-identifying moniker of Ms. Which is what I prefer. Time has actually mellowed my staunch stand on the Ms Vs Mrs. Back in the day I use to go into a full speech about how I was a Ms and not a M.R.S. I wore Ms (still do) as proudly as married women wore Mrs. because some of the married women I encountered were quick to correct anyone who called them Ms. It was if that extra letter and extra syllable gave them something that single women didn’t have and they flaunted it. And some married women think that all single want women want their husbands. I had to tell a paranoid married woman that single doesn’t mean desperate! What’s even sadder is that some of the women waving their wedding flags the highest have wandering husbands. But I learned long ago that it’s not wise to tell someone about their mate.

I put my book away and settled in for a relaxing facial with no more references to Mrs. until I tuned into Scandal and Olivia Pope’s daddy, Eli, took her to task for even thinking about settling for being just a Mrs.—even if was First Lady of the United States of America! He told her First Lady was aiming too low; that she should at least try for Secretary of State. I almost fell off my couch. There it was again—this idea of being a Mrs., but Papa Pope had turned the fantasy of First Lady on its head! So I started thinking—AGAIN!—about this whole idea of Ms. Vs. Mrs. and I know that for me the title of Mrs. is not only political, but intensely personal as well. Society dubs single women as misfits whereas the title of Mrs. earns a certain level of respect—deserving or not.

We put so much pressure on women to get married that women hurt themselves and others in the process of trying to get him, as Beyonce’ says, “to put a ring on it.” I’m still trying to figure why Beyonce’—no last name needed—decided to name her tour, The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour, after her husband, Jay-Z who doesn’t use his own last name. I’m not mad—just curious as to the reasoning behind it. She was Beyonce’ after she married and had a baby, but now she’s Mrs. Carter? Hey, it’s not for me to figure out.

Beyonce’ aside, I am disturbed by the deals some women make with the devil to get married. But once they are married, they retreat behind the halo of marriage. The irony is that the term “Mrs.” originally meant Mistress which is who some of them were before they actually became the Wife. A lot of women believe that man is eligible even if he’s in a committed relationship because he’s not married. There are women who know they’re the jump-off, chick on the side, wifey or whatever, but they grow tired of their second class status and try to “upgrade” themselves.

I know a woman who is her husband’s third wife. He cheated on Wife No. 1 with Wife No. 2, and cheated on Wife No. 2 with Wife No. 3, but the third wife says that he knows better than to cheat on her. Really? I know of another woman who was her Wife No. 2 after being the mistress. A friend of mine was supposed to attend a wedding, but it was called off. She shared with me that the bride-to-be received some photos of her husband with another woman the night before the wedding. The other woman sent the photos. The bride-to-be called off the wedding; he later married the other chick.

I had a friend who was dating a woman that he liked, but he met another woman. The second woman was a Christian and didn’t believe in pre-marital sex, but she somehow ended up pregnant. Go figure. He kept seeing the one he liked even after the Christian woman got pregnant. So, she waited until the other woman was at his house and showed up with her pregnant belly in full view. He was definitely wrong for not coming clean to his girl, but the other woman was wrong, too. It wasn’t her call. My friend and the Christian woman got married after he prayed and God told him that she was to be his bride. They married. The marriage ended after she cheated on him.

As a little girl I didn’t dream about planning my wedding and getting married. I thought one day I’d get married because that’s what was required. In my 20s I fell in love with a man I thought would be my husband. We talked about marriage. Even though we had our ups and downs I hung in there because I thought he was the man I was supposed to marry. One day I called his house and a woman answered the phone. Our relationship ended. Five months later he was married. We dated longer than they were married, but she’s the ex-wife; I’m the ex-girlfriend. In society, she matters; I don’t.

Even though my parents were married, I was raised in a single-parent household. When I got older, I used to joke with my mother about me being the make-up after the break-up baby because I never remember my father living in the house with us. I am the youngest of seven so it’s easy for me to figure out the relationship was unraveling before I was born.

When my parents divorced, my father remarried. He married his mistress. When my father died, my sister helped his wife write the obituary, and my mother was listed as the first wife and mother of his children. But on the day of the funeral, when I looked at my father’s obituary, my mother’s name had been whited out. So, he was survived by his second wife, their six living children (me and my siblings) and two stepchildren (her children). I balled it up. What was there to say—she was in fact the M.R.S.

I know of women who had sex with other men leading right up to their weddings because the men they really want won’t marry them, so they’re settling for less than they want and deserve by marrying men that could give them the coveted title of M.R.S. even though they don’t love the men they married. How sad for them if the love doesn’t grow into something worth sustaining. Maybe settling is better than being single. I don’t know. But I’ve met plenty of married people who I wouldn’t trade places with because I can be bad by myself. There’s no point in being a married single woman. And I know a few of them—they do everything with their friends and family, but rarely anything with their husbands. They are married in name only.

I probably won’t get married, and I’m ok with that. I don’t find myself longing for a husband. I just want to be happy. .If I happen to meet a wonderful man who wants to get married, I’d consider it. But if it never happens I still want to live my best life. I’m not hatin’ on married women. I wish women who are already married as well as those waiting to walk down the aisle well. It’s not the M.R.S. that I have issues with, but the ways in which some women become M.R.S.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Lost Earring

               I love earrings. I wear my hair cropped close so the right earrings accentuate my face. I take my time buying earrings that are right for me, and with anything else, of course I end up liking some better than others. They grow on me because they end up being a good fit for my style.  I had a pair that I was especially fond of for no other reason than seem to add something a little extra.  They were silver and shaped like daisies. They became my go-to earrings; I wore them frequently.
               One day, I came home from being out and about and discovered that the earring had slipped from my ear; I had lost it. I had been a few places so there was no way to retrace my steps and find my earring. I'd lost earrings before--many times. No big deal, or so I though. But this one bothered me.  I hadn’t worked out that day so there was no reason for me to take them out, and I know I put them both in before I left that morning. Did I forget to secure it with an earring back? Why was I lamenting the loss of this one earring? I was puzzled until I dug deeper into my subconscious.
               The more I thought about the earring, the more it reminded me of lost relationships.  I thought about the people I continue to reach out to, but my texts and phone calls go unreturned.
  As unsettling as it is, I know I need to let go of what’s already gone.  I’ve spent too much time trying to figure out when the other one fell out. Did it slip away when I wasn't looking? Had the back fallen off long time ago and I just wasn't paying attention?  At this point, does it even matter?
             I am one of those people who hold onto things long after their expiration date. And while I logically know that everything changes, I'm not always willing to embrace change until I'm ready. But change happens with our without permission. When I took inventory, I realized that I have a few earrings in my jewerly box without a partner. I’m still holding onto them thinking that one day the mate will reappear. It’s kind of silly to have these random earrings unless I’m going to start a trend of wearing mismatched earrings. But I know that’s not my sense of style. For me, earrings work best in a pair;  I need two to make it work.  While I have come to the realization that there are some relationships in my life that are not working because half of the pair is missing, I’ve also checked to see if I am half of the missing pair in other relationships. Is someone looking for me, and I’ve slipped away? Do I need to check myself and find my way back?
             I have a compartment full of single earrings that I don’t know what to do with, so this weekend I'm lovingly tossing out the mis-matched earrings.  No more taking up precious space in the compartment of my life when they no longer have a purpose. Recognizing that they aren’t useful to me now, doesn’t de-value the role they played when they were part of a perfect pair. They added value at that time. And for that I am forever thankful. They're gone, but not forgotten. It’s time to move on.   There are new earrings to buy and new memories to create. The time in my life for something new, is past due.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Where I’m From

I recently ran across the poem, Where I'm From by Georgia Ella Lyon, and I used it as inspiration to create my own story of  Where I'm From. It reminds of how each of us has a narrative to tell, and that it is our responsibility to share our stories so that we learn from each other and grow into the people we were meant to me. This is Where I'm from

I am from Home Juice delivered to my door,
Ethnic baked goods from a bus trip across town
Meals made from scratch; nothing out of a box at my house

I am from sit-down Sunday and holiday dinners
Pepper steak and rice in Chinatown
My mother, my sister, my niece and me

I am from karate lessons in the basement,
Home-made heated tents when the furnace went out,
Swing sets on a summer day
Dance parties in the front room

I am from being chased through the house – laughing and squealing,
Hide-and-go seek, Simon Says;
I am from a  time that allowed me to enjoy being a child

I am from “See you later alligator, after while crocodile;” “Watch out there now;”
And “If it had’ve been a snake it would have bit you” –
When I couldn’t find something in front of my face

I am from singing in music workshop,
The red swivel seats of an integrated Woolworths
And neighbors who know my name

I am from the bottom of the slave ship
Washed up on the shore of North America
Two cultures merged to make me

I am from Africa by way of Nigeria and Sierra Leona
From the intersection of Georgia and Mississippi
From the west and the south side of Chicago

I am from the Ancestors
On whose shoulders I stand
I am from the breath of God
I am from this place we call

Where are you from? I would love to hear your story.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Tale of Two Runs

I recently joined a running group to give a much needed boost to a sluggish exercise program. I’m not really a runner; I jog/trot my way to my desired destination. The group meets at a running store on 102nd and Western and they run through Beverly. This was something I manage twice a week because it was on the way home from work. I could get some things, meet for a run and head home. Perfect.

The first day out I cheated myself and ended up walking. In my rush to leave that morning I forgot to pack a required essential—my sports bra. I knew I couldn’t run without my attention-seeking companions acting out and trying to get some attention. They needed to be tied down, and I had left the harness at home. So, I resigned myself to walking. But it was a wonderful walking experience.

Although I ride through the Beverly/Morgan park neighborhood and admire the scenery, it was not something I had done on foot. The perfectly manicured, rich deep-green lawns surrounding the home create a sense of serenity. As I walked and enjoyed the view, I could feel the stress that had been nipping at me fall away. I passed a boutique and peeked in the window, and then ducked in the jerk chicken restaurant to grab a menu. It was a wonderful prelude to what I hoped would be a peaceful evening.

On Saturday, I decided that I wanted to run outside again, but I didn’t want to drive to Beverly. Since there’s a park near my house that I have used as part of my exercise regiment in the past without incident, I decided to go to the park. The area around Palmer Park is definitely not as scenic as Beverly, but I could be outside and be one with nature—or so I thought.

The early morning peace was pierced by the sounds of sirens speeding west on 111th St. unfortunately, living in an area plagued by violence, the sounds of sirens are commonplace. I started my run and noticed CTA workers in the park along with a bus. “That’s odd, I thought.” As I rounded the corner I saw the news crews. I saw people gathered. I saw a building across the street with the windows broken out, and the yellow tape stretched across the fence in front. I slowed, but I didn’t stop.

The next time around, I became a voyeur and whipped out my phone. Snap, snap. I took pictures to document the difficulty of even something as simple as a run in certain neighborhoods.  Two days earlier being one with nature melted the tension of a long day, but on Saturday, the songs on my from iPod were fighting with my stream of consciousness thinking of-what-had-happened-and-whose-life-was-forever-altered-by-the-early-morning events. 

I couldn’t help but wonder how could anyone find peace in the midst of unrest?

Monday, September 16, 2013

After the Rain

            I am in that place—again—a place of uncertainty as I ponder what to do next. The change of season from summer to fall cause to me pause and reflect. Some seasons stand out more than others; this feels like one to rremember just like the one a few years ago when I decided to return to school, not because I needed to, but because I wanted to. And yet when I started school, I began to second guess myself. I remember my first night of class. . . 

            Thoughts of What am I doing? are interrupted by the carpeted footsteps of my classmates. Their nervous laughter tells me we are joined in thought. We crowd into an elevator heading for our evening destination, then branching out when we reach the first floor. The revolving door moans as I push my way outside. 

            Everything is damp from an earlier rain. The wind greets me, caressing my naked toes and legs before sliding up the sleeve of my denim jacket. The sky is an electric bluish-gray—a Jimi Hendrix song waiting to burst through. It smells like rain, really —not the bottled up kind we find in rain fresh house-hold products. I love the rain, but I like it much better when I’m inside watching it. I’m usually not prepared for rain, and today is no exception. I didn’t check the weather forecast—I never do. But this time I’m not totally caught off-guard because I had a cap and jacket in my car.  

            I thought back to when I got caught in life’s torrential rain. Politics forced me to change jobs, my relationship ended, and I moved back into the home of my child hood. Unprepared for the constant drizzle after the storm, I’d wake up every morning with the rain beating against my soul. This season is difficult for me because I lost my father and my sister during the fall. So I know the source of some my angst is seasonal, but some of it is also the anxiety that comes with embarking onto something new.

            Melancholy musings aside, I need to get started because I don’t have long. I turn on my cell phone and set my alarm for 7:20 because we have to be back in class by 7:25. As I lean against Bennigan’s picture-perfect planter of yellow, red and lavender flowers I feel the buzz of my phone against my hip indicating a text message. It’s my friend—she’s stalking me. The 411 will have to wait until I see her at work tomorrow. I know it’s about the kids. After all these years she is still amazingly passionate about her students. I wish I could say the same. The perfectly placed Hunts bottles on the left side of the Bennigans giant navy blue and white umbrellas adorning the outdoor café tables are a direct contrast to the day-to-day chaos of interacting with children.

            The night and I share the same subdued mood. People are alone in their private worlds on their way somewhere else. Conversation is minimal, and barely audible except for the guy who walks by talking on his cell phone. “Well, you know what, screw it. Don’t even worry about it.” The light changes from green to red and the screeching sound of a green and yellow checker cab in need of a brake job pierces the semi silence.

The sign on the side of a stopped CTA bus reads, “More Me, Less We”--an advertisement for Loyola University. I snicker and shake my head at the irony of it. Our growing sense of entitlement is why we’re in the predicament that we’re in, in the world today.

            The homeless man shuffles down the street like a Hurricane Katrina victim: his eyes downcast, his black wooly mass of hair matted and dreadlocked, his gold outfit shiny with dirt, the remnants of gym shoes covering his feet. 

It looks like he didn’t check the forecast either. But unlike him, I have shelter from the storm. I pray that it will always be that way.

A feeling of satisfaction feels me as I enter the building. I do know what I’m doing. Taking life to the next level, and when life drizzles on my dream, I know between umbrella of support and my raincoat of faith the sun will shine again.

While the sun has temporarily faded behind the clouds, and the rain of change drips into my life slow and constant like the leaky faucet in my bathroom, I know that it will not be ignored for much longer.  I'm stalling, but I will have to face it. And just like before, I know that after the rain, the sun will shine again.