Why I Don’t Have a Boyfriend (Probably)

I wasn’t going to write this, but it came out of me like lava. #BridesmaidsRef

Last time I talked about how music was one of my favorite things about summer.  You want to know what else is?  Reading.  Being done with class and free for the summer means that I can finally devote my free time to reading material other than textbooks.  I just finished the second book on my personal summer reading list.  It’s called We Should Hang Out Sometime: Embarrassingly, a True Story by Josh Sundquist.  The book gives an account of 25-year-old Sundquist finding himself single and tracking down all of his ex-girlfriends in order to figure out why.  It was funny, relatable, and caused me to ask myself the same question: Why am I single?!

For some reason, I get asked this question all the time.  Variations include:

  • “Why don’t you have a boyfriend?”
  • “You seriously don’t have a boyfriend?” (I’ve been asked this twice.  Once in a condescending tone and the other in the form of pity.  I actually respected the condescending tone more than the pity)
  • “What’s your fella’s name?  Don’t lie to me!” (Because my aunt and other family members swear I’m in a secret relationship)
  • “What’s your boyfriend’s name?” (Creepy guy who sucked at flirting)

So in a moment of self-searching, I decided to come up with possible reasons for why I’m single.

1. I’m Clueless

Last month during my birthday dinner, my sister randomly decided to take a personality test on her phone.  You know, those Myers Briggs Tests that result in you being labeled as one of “the 16 personality types.”  I took the test after her.  Turns out I’m an INTJ, which is one of the rarest personality types and explains so much about my life.  One of an INTJ’s major weaknesses is that we’re clueless in romance.  I almost cackled when I read that because it’s so true.  For example, around this time last year I was talking to this guy who was practically my boyfriend.  Timehop, AKA the devil, reminded me of this.  We were legit talking all day every day.  It stopped, though, when I felt he was getting too serious.  Looking back, he had every right to feel that way.  We were pretty much together.  He was aware, I was clueless, we died.

2. I’m Awkward

If I have a crush on you, when I’m around you I’m either:

  1. Shy and quiet
  2.  Cold and standoffish
  3. A goofy buffoon

A case of me being number 3 happened sometime last summer.  I work on the campus of my university.  I had a crush on one of the guys who worked for campus mail and would make runs to our office.  We never said more than “hi,” “bye,” “thank you,” and “have a good day/weekend” to each other, but I still had a weird kindergarten crush on him for some reason.  Anyway, one day somebody (and curse whoever did this) put a piece of mail in our outgoing box to be delivered to another office.  He didn’t know what building the person was in, so he asked me to look it up.  He stood right over my shoulder as I began to look this person up.  For some reason, my keyboard was on caps lock.  I guess I got too nervous to reach over and turn it off because there I was, like an idiot, typing in all caps while Mail Guy I Had a Crush On stood over my shoulder trying not to laugh at me.  QUEEN OF AWKWARD.  Turns out he had a girlfriend, anyway.  Whatever.

3. I’m a Homebody/Old Fashioned

I could seriously become a hermit at the ripe age of 22 and make it just fine.  There is nothing like being in the comfort of my own home.  Because humans kind of suck, ya know?  However, this of course doesn’t help much in meeting a significant other.  It’s not like somebody’s going to bulldoze my front door and go, “hey, I want to date you.”  And I understand that online dating/apps are the new wave in meeting people, but I’m not about that life.  Call me a sucker, but I still have this idea of accidentally hitting a dude’s basket in the grocery store and us falling in love over small talk while discussing ketchup brands.  I watch too many movies.

4. I Have a Strong Personality

Being an Aries means that I’m assertive and have a strong sense of who I am (a quick aside about my relationship with astrology.  I realize I talk a lot on here about being an Aries and how it influences my life.  Do I believe in the traits that each star sign supposedly has?  Heck yes!  They’re totally accurate.  Do I believe in horoscopes?  No.  Jesus plans my life).  My Twitter handle isn’t soulnot4sale_ for nothing (not to mention it’s one of the realest Beyonce lines ever).  However, this means I can be a tad uncompromising and maybe a little condescending at times.  Case in point, my sophomore year of college I talked to this African guy.  He was Liberian.  I loved hearing him talk about his culture because I’ve always wanted to go to Africa ever since they traveled there on Cycle 4 of America’s Next Top Model (don’t judge my inspirations).  I think the main reason we didn’t work out is due to culture clashing and an unwillingness to back down.  He had his opinions and criticisms of Black Americans and I wasn’t about to let him diss my tribe.  He didn’t believe in backing down and neither did I, so we were doomed from the jump.

5. I Don’t Care (Most of the Time)

I’m at an unintentionally selfish stage in my life right now.  I’m getting ready to graduate college in December and am about to enter the most critical semester of my college career so far.  I honestly don’t have time to look for or worry about not having a boyfriend because so many other things are currently occupying my time and mind.  Yes, there are several times it sucks being single, but at 22 I can’t afford to trip over it too much because there is so much more to (my) life than that right now.  So, I’m good.  Now let me shut up before y’all accuse me of being bitter (which I’m totally not, by the way).

X’s and O’s,

JF

Ratchets Taking Over for the 16 & 17

Is it just me, or does something about summer make you want to get ratchet?  You know, do hoodrat stuff with your friends.  One of my favorite things about summer is music.  For me, songs that get released in the summer hold a lot more memories.  I’m not sure, but maybe it’s because I had the privilege of growing up when BET and MTV still showed hour blocks of music videos, so half of my day was spent watching those. I recently found my iPod from high school, and you know what I realized?  I was pretty ratchet.  So since I equate summer with getting ratchet and music, why not create a personal ranking of my favorite ratchet-turn-up-anthems?  Enjoy.

Criteria for the list:

  • In a sizable crowd, do at least half the people go “yaaaaaaaas” or show some other form of excitement when the song comes on and rush to the dance floor?
  • Does it have a great popular culture impact (AKA do your black, white, Puerto Rican, and Asian friends know this song and do you shame them if they don’t)?
  • Does it have a catchy (and often annoying and nonsensical) hook?
  • Do you almost break your volume dial turning this up when it comes on in the car?
  • Is a little (or a lot) misogynistic (le sigh)?

*For the sake of keeping it classy at Black Girls Who Use Urban Dictionary Enterprises, all song titles and lyrics will be censored*

11. “Wobble” – V.I.C. (2008)

It’s no secret that people absolutely love to do the wobble.  Especially people over 30 at black family functions.  It may seem shocking to most that it’s on my list, but “Wobble” is pretty ratchet.  Masked by a line dance that’s easy and fun for all, the lyrics are super sexual.  I never noticed this until the song became popular on the radio about three or four years after its initial release.  V.I.C. brags about having chicks “shakin’ their boobies like congos,” having a “girl [tell him] that a man that could dance might could possibly get down with the tool in his pants, (oh, innuendo)” and asks “ladies [to] let me see you vibrate” and assures them that “when its over [they] ain’t gon’ need [they] vibrator.”  And all of this is just in the first verse.  That’s why I giggle when this gets played at middle school and junior high dances, and that’s the reason it’s on my list.

10. “Rock Yo Hips” – Crime Mob feat. Lil Scrappy (2006)

Anything involving Lil Scrappy is ratchet.  Just turn to Vh1 right now and see what I’m talking about.  The use of “Yo” in place of “your” in this title also adds to its ratchet appeal.  However, you can’t help but get caught up in that catchy beat and “she rock her hips, then wave and sip” hook.  Also, what girl doesn’t know Diamond’s “now I got 32 flavors of that bootylicious bubblegum” verse word for word?  If you don’t, judging you!  And don’t try to act like you didn’t Picnik your Facebook profile picture with Princess’ “top notch glamour chick” line, either.

9. “Right Thurr” – Chingy (2003)

Like the previous track, the spelling of this song aids in its ratchet appeal.  Chingy was known for having alternative spellings for his songs, like “Holidae In” and “Dem Jeans,” but this one took the cake.  When you think about it, though, every thing about Chingy was a little ratchet.  His name was Chingy for goodness’ sake.  Chingy bridged the gap between being ratchet and country,  a gap that many southern folks like myself fall into.  Chingy was cratchet, I suppose (new word, y’all!), so I really appreciated him.  I keep talking about him in the past tense, because, where is Chingy?  He never quite reached the same heights of success that he did during his Jackpot album era (and this is just my opinion, but 2007’s Fly Like Me featuring Amerie would’ve been a hit if it were released during this time) and was even the victim of a Twitter death hoax around 2011/2012.  I miss him.  Wherever you are, Chingy, come back!

8. “Shake Ya Tailfeather” – Nelly, P. Diddy, and Murphy Lee (2003)

The opening of this song is all people need to hear in order to get in formation to turn up.  After all these years, I still don’t really know what they’re saying, but it’s like a call to action almost.  Think the beginning of The Lion King when all the meerkats and stuff stand at attention when they’re being called to Simba’s presentation or whatever.  A bit extreme of an example, but I think you get the point I’m trying to make here.  This song is ratchet because the request is its title, for females to shake a tailfeather, which was basically 2003 slang for twerking, and nothing’s more ratchet than twerking.  The song also works because it has some universal appeal.  It was included on the Bad Boys II soundtrack, and the hook, “oh no!  I heard them bad boys coming.  Can’t stop now!  Got to continue my running,” is catchy enough for even the guys to join in on, despite the fact that this is basically a song about twerking.  Or maybe the guys enjoy shaking a tailfeather, too.  I don’t know.  I don’t judge.

7. “Clappers” – Wale feat. Nicki Minaj and Juicy J (2013)

The first time I heard Wale screaming, “shawty got a big ol’ butt, OH YEEEEEEAH,” during the chorus of this song, I thought, “what in the world is this?”  Then, I realized it sounded vaguely familiar.  Turns out that line is an interpolation of E.U.’s “Da Butt” which was released in 1988 and used in one of my favorite movies, Spike Lee’s School Daze, proof that black people have been making ratchet-turn-up-anthems for a minute now.  Somewhere I got over my initial reaction, because one day found myself being able to rap Nicki’s verse perfectly line for line.  I was disappointed, yet very excited with myself.

6. “Ayy Ladies” – Travis Porter (2012)

I’ve always had a weird affinity for Travis Porter.  They (yes, they.  If you aren’t accustomed to ratchet-turn-up-music, you’d probably think Travis Porter is a single person and not a group.  The same way The Weeknd is a single person and not a group like you probably thought when you first heard of him) reached their peak greatness when I was in high school, which is consequently the same time I reached my peak ratchetness.  The message behind this song is totally screwed and filthy, but when you hear, “If you a top notch ***** let me hear you holla!” it’s sadly instinct to turn up, even if you’re not one or don’t necessarily agree with the message.  You also can’t help but be enticed by the hoodrats screaming “YEEEEAH,” throughout the chorus.

5. “Low” – Flo Rida feat. T-Pain (2007)

The object of Flo Rida’s affection in this song was wearing apple bottom jeans and boots with the fur.  ‘Nough said.

4. “Pop That” – French Montana feat. Rick Ross, Drake, and Lil Wayne (2012)

This song was released during my freshman year of college, a time when my feminist values were in their early stages of settling in.  When I first heard this song, I thought, “what is this?  Who is enjoying this?  Why in the world are they enjoying this?”  But when you hear the Uncle Luke sample screaming “DON’T STOP POP THAT DON’T STOP POP THAT POP THAT POP THAT” over the chorus of this song 3-5 times on the radio everyday, it’ll make even the most sanctified person want to turn up.

3. “No Hands” – Waka Flocka Flame feat. Roscoe Dash and Wale (2010)

A few weeks ago, I tweeted that this song had the potential to dethrone number 1 on this list (scroll ahead if you wish) as the greatest ratchet-turn-up-anthem of all time.  I still stand by that.  When you hear “Listen to this track *****!,” you know it’s time to get ready to turn up.  It has the same effect as the beginning of “Shake Ya Tailfeather.”  If an “ayyyyyye!” doesn’t come out of your mouth when Roscoe Dash starts, “giiiiiirl drop it the floor….” something’s wrong with you.

2. “Get Low” – Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz feat. Ying Yang Twins (2003)

“Get Low” is so iconic on so many levels that I don’t even know what to include here.  Like so many other songs on this list, intro is every thing.  That “burumpobo” at the beginning is like Paul Revere’s shot heard around the world.  You know what time it is when you hear it!  And there’s so many memorable lines.  “To the window, to the wall,” “let me see you get low (You scared!  You scared!),” and, my personal favorite, “BACK, BACK, BACK IT UP!,” are just to name a few.  This song introduced and defined the era of “crunk,” which was spearheaded by Lil Jon, that I was so fortunate to grow up in, never mind the fact that I had zero business listening to any of it at the time.  The mid-2000s were the peak years of ratchetness.  Oh, how I miss it.

1. “Back That Thang Up” – Juvenile feat. Mannie Fresh and Lil Wayne (1999)

I think there’s a general consensus when it comes to naming this song as the greatest ratchet-turn-up-anthem of all time.  Just look at the weight it holds:

preview

Even my sister agrees with this song’s placement on my list, and she deems anything turn up worthy as trash.  Go listen to it for yourself and let me know your reaction after Juvenile starts with, “girl you working with some ***, yeah!”  It’s also always fun listening to Lil Wayne in his pre auto-tune days.

Honorable Mention (Songs That Almost Made This List):

  • “How Low” – Ludacris
  • “Tootsie Roll” – 69 Boyz
  • “Laffy Taffy” – D4L
  • “Dance (***)” – Big Sean
  • Trina’s entire discography

X’s and O’s,

JF

 

Prom Fright

Last year I wrote a post about parties being overrated.  You want to know another “p” word that’s overrated?  Prom.  Now for a girl who loves satin, tulle, heels, jewelry, bling, and hair as much as I do, you’d think prom would be right up my alley.  I mean, in theory, it really is a fun concept.  High school kids getting all dressed up with their friends to eat at fancy restaurants, ride in swanky limos, and party and dance the night away for one special evening.  It’s one of the last big moments of the school year where everybody gets to come together for a similar purpose, and it’s especially important for seniors.  In all, prom is kind of an American ritual, something you feel like you’re supposed do and enjoy, like eating hot dogs on the Fourth of July.

As a kid, I viewed prom as most little girls would.  This magical night where you get all dolled up like a princess and have a ball.  Being a ’90s teen movie fanatic didn’t help this obsession, either.  All of those proms looked lit!  I also remember watching the prom episode of That’s So Raven in the sixth grade and deciding I wanted a pink dress just like hers.  But now that I’m 22, I view prom as a joke.  It’s that time of year where all of our social media threads are being drowned with over the top “promposals” and overly extravagant prom looks from teenagers.  I can’t help but to cackle at a lot of these.  What in the world do these kids think is so special about prom that they’re doing this:

Screenshot_2016-04-02-21-36-29-1

And looking like this:

Screenshot_2016-04-09-16-34-26-1

But I guess in today’s teenagers’ defense, they’re probably viewing prom the same way I once did.  The night of all nights to be remembered forever.  That’s why teens today, no matter how ridiculous, are going all out like in the examples above.  So what has led to my opinion on prom being so jaded today?  Experience.

Let’s start with my junior prom.  I didn’t decide to officially go until about two weeks before it took place.  Yes, you read that right.  Two weeks.  There were several times I seriously  considered going before finally making up my mind, though.  Like one Saturday while helping my cousin look for a dress for her own prom.  She had waited until the last minute, too, and we spent the unusually hot March day riding around in her busted up Chevy that had no AC trying to find her a dress (gosh, those were the days!).  Anyway, while helping her find a dress, I briefly thought that maybe it would be fun to actually go to prom myself.  Then, for whatever reason, I thought against it again.

The main reason I finally decided to go was peer pressure.  None of my friends were going, and then bam!  Somewhere between mid-March everyone was finding dresses and making plans for the big night.  I was like, “what is this?  None of you were going last week!  How fake!”  The final straw was when my best friend went to Louisiana one weekend and randomly bought a dress, texting me a picture of it.  Was I going to let my bestie go to prom and slay without me doing the same?  No!  Oh, to be sixteen and silly again. (side note:  another small reason I decided to go to prom was pure vanity.  I was on yearbook staff all four years of high school, and knew that only the previous year’s prom pictures made it into next year’s yearbook due to deadlines.  Since I was a junior, I knew that the only way my picture could be on next year’s prom page was if I attended that year’s.  So I went.  And guess who designed the next year’s prom page?  Me.  Ridiculous?  Very, but remember, sixteen and silly)

So here it was, two weeks before prom and I decided I was going to go.  My mom couldn’t believe I had the nerve to try and find anything to wear that late, going as far as threatening to make me wear my Easter dress as a punishment.  But like the amazing mother she is, we set out one Friday evening after school to find me a dress.  We went to David’s Bridal.  Now, for skinny girls, maybe waiting two weeks before prom to find a dress isn’t a big deal.  I’m sure there are still plenty of cute options out there for them.  But for plus-size girls like myself?  N.O.  This is especially true for me considering the fact that I was thirty pounds heavier in high school than I am now.  So the first night of shopping was a disaster.  Nothing fit right, and if it did, it was ugly.  The saleslady finally got my suggested size and called the David’s Bridal on the other side of the city to see if they had any possible options for me.  It was almost closing time for them, but they said they had one dress that they thought might work and promised to hold it for me so we could come and check it out in the morning.  I might have been fat, but I deserved options, darn it!  So we did.

When we got to the other store the next morning, the girl behind the counter pulled out a straight, black spaghetti-strapped dress that looked like a low budget bridesmaid dress from 1999.  It screamed basic.  I was stressed and emotional, so with that nagging little sting of almost-tears forming in my eyes, I shook my head and turned away.  The salesgirl was probably thinking, “I know this fat little heifer didn’t” (I’m sure she thought worse than that, but we like to keep it classy at Black Girls Who Use Urban Dictionary Enterprises).  My mom called out, “Don’t you at least want to try it on?”  I don’t know if it was pure sixteen-year-old brat in me or the sheer determination that comes along with being an Aries, but I continued my stride away from them and decided that I was going to leave that store that day with a dress that I actually liked.

And I did.  On my own, I found a black tulle dress with a sweetheart neckline and ruffled bottom that fit perfectly.  In the next week I found perfect shoes and jewelry to match and wore my hair in ringlets of curls.  I was adorable!  So what went wrong?  I’m not really sure.  You know that saying that goes something like “the thing that messes us up the most is the idea we have of the way we think things should be?”  Well, I think my idea of how prom night was supposed to go messed things up.  It was fun and it was cool, but it wasn’t like those proms in the 90s movies I loved so much.  It just didn’t measure up to my expectations.  And if you’re going to bed at 11:38 pm on prom night, the night probably wasn’t that amazing.  (my picture was on next year’s prom page, though!)

Screenshot_2016-04-16-13-14-59-1

By senior year, with the previous year’s prom mishaps behind me, I was determined to avoid them and make this one even better.  Well, the only way I can describe my senior prom is through a “DON’T” list:

  • DON’T Order Your Dress Online, and if You Do, DON’T Do Your Own Measurements
    • IMG_20160330_113735-1Risky indeed.  I decided to order my dress from a site called Rissy Roo’s.  I chose an aqua/teal and dark blue multi-animal print strapless dress.  Remember how I said I was thirty pounds heavier in high school than I am now?  Yeah, AWFUL dress choice!  Anyway, before I ordered the dress, I decided to get my measurements myself by using measurement tape.  You know, the kind used to measure wood to build houses and stuff.  I’m a person whose a big believer in personal accountability and owning up to one’s mistakes.  I’ve done several dumb things in my life, and this one is definitely in my top five.  The dress came in and was way too tight across the chest.  This led to me having to take it to a seamstress to get the entire back of it redesigned just so it would fit.  She added straps to it, which ended up breaking the day of prom as I was getting dressed.  She also forgot to hem the outer chiffon layer of the dress, causing me to have to pick it up the entire night to keep from tripping.  A tragic, tragic (yes, two tragics were necessary) disaster.  That’s the only way I can describe it.
  • DON’T Tell Your Hairdresser “Do Whatever You Want” When it Comes to Styling Your Hair
    • 2016-04-25 22.48.07And it turned out pretty bad.  While I was (for the most part) prepared in the dress department this time, I wasn’t in the hair department.  My old hair stylist, whose name shall not be mentioned, had the worst customer service ever.  You know those stereotypes about having to spend all day at black hair salons because they take forever?  Well, this woman was the epitome of that.  I can’t tell you the amounts of homework I got done, the books I finished reading, or the episodes of Family Feud I watched during the many times I waited on this woman to do my hair.  There were several occasions when I had a 5:00 pm hair appointment and wouldn’t get under the dryer until 10:00 pm.  Yes, it was that bad.  So bad to the point that I didn’t even trust her to do my hair on the actual day of prom, so I opted for the Friday evening before.  The point I’m trying to make is that even though I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my hair by the time of my appointment, I had plenty of time to look through the outdated hairstyle books in her waiting area while she took forever to start on my head.  After about a three hour wait, I still didn’t know what I wanted, so I told her, “Do whatever you want.”  She ended up giving me a perm and adding a single 15-inch track into my hair.  I left with nothing but a basic, straight weave.  It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t good either and I couldn’t go to prom with my hair like that.  While I was still hopeful:
    • Screenshot_2016-03-30-11-33-11-1This leads to my next DON’T.
  • DON’T Let Your Mother Style Your Hair on the Day of Prom
    • I didn’t want to go to prom with that long weave, so I had my mother take it out the next morning.  I ended up having to wear my own hair, which she styled.  It wasn’t that she did a bad job, it just wasn’t my vision!  Not that I ever really had a vision to begin with, but I know that wasn’t it.  After my dress and hair became a disaster, I didn’t even want to go to prom anymore.  My mom and sister forced me, though.  So off I went to my senior prom with a busted dress and basic hair and simply wanting the night to be over before it ever even began.  I left about an hour and a half into it and went to Buffalo Wild Wings.  Holla!

So, do I hate prom now because my own experiences weren’t that great?  Partly, yes.  But the other reason is because I’m now in the position where I can look back and understand how insignificant it is.  When I see promposals and the amount of effort teens today put into their prom looks, I can’t help but to want to warn them that none of this will matter in five years.  Now, am I hating on them because my proms sucked?  No.  I’m just wiser and care about educating the children.  So, if you’re a teen whose prom sucked or you didn’t even bother to go, don’t trip.  If you’re a teen who had an amazing prom and got your way and you’d do it all again next year, good for you!  Bottom line is, do you.  Because five years from now, it won’t even matter.

X’s and O’s,

JF

Reflections Of An Almost College Graduate

I registered for my final semester of college on Tuesday.  My heart seriously quickened its pace when I realized, “wow, this is it!”  Coincidentally on this same day (while playing around on my phone at work), I came across a questionnaire asking people to see how well they remembered their freshman year of high school.  Because I have a minor fear of growing up and facing my impeding responsibilities (and I apparently enjoyed abusing the fact that my supervisor was gone to lunch), I decided to complete the questionnaire myself:

Who was your best friend?

The same person who’s still my best friend today, Allyson Whodidntwantherlastnamementioned (ACE BOON COON!).

Did you have a crush on anyone?

Hmmm, 9th grade crush….I really don’t thi- well I did have a lingering crush from 8th grade on this Mexican boy in my grade, who also just so happened to live up the street from me.  We were friends, but I was too shy to change anything about that (I highly doubt the love would have been reciprocated anyway, though).  The crush went away for whatever reason somewhere during the middle of the year.  I probably had crushes on some of the older guys at the school, too, but nothing serious.

What sport did you play?

Band.  Before you protest, spend a class period during the heat of the day parading around on a football field with the sun beaming down on your black skin.  If I sweat, it’s a sport.  So band it is.

Did you buy your lunch?

I ate in the cafeteria on good days like soup days when we got a cinnamon roll and stick of cheese, but other than that, yes, I bought my lunch.  I ate a bag of hot Cheetos and drank a bottle of Sprite everyday.  Sometimes, I’d mix it up and bring a pack of Lunchables (how come nobody called me out on this?  People probably thought I had an eating disorder!).

Did you skip?

Technically, no.  But I was on yearbook staff and we got to check out of school to go around and “sell ads” at the beginning of the year.  I put sell ads in quotations because a lot of the time we’d just check out and go to McDonald’s or somewhere and ride around for the class period.  Try to suspend me, bro.  I’m grown now.

Did you get suspended?

Nope.  Beat the system. *See Above*

Were you in any fist fights?

No.  I wasn’t tacky.  Still not.

What was your favorite class?

It’s a tie between Algebra I and English.  I’ve never cared for math, but for some reason me and Algebra I clicked.  It might be because I loved my math teacher so much that year.  I left ninth grade wanting to become a math education major.  This is hilarious to me now considering the fact that I haven’t had a math class in three years and would have a stroke if somebody put a long division problem in front of me now.

What was your school’s name?

Morrilton High School, where student achievement was the highest priority.

If you could go back, would you?

Couldn’t pay me.

Where did you sit at lunch?

All around the world.  Since we were lowly freshmen and all of the upperclassmen snatched up all of the tables in the cafeteria, me and my friends were forced to sit outside under a pavilion-like area.  Rain, snow, shine (literally), we ate outside.  One day an ice storm started.  One day it started lightning, so they took us and our fellow outdoors men from our area and had us sit in the hallway behind the principal’s office.  That was fun.  On days when it was too cold, we’d sneak off to the library and flip through magazines.  (Don’t get too sad.  We came up big time.  By senior year, we had a table in the back corner of the cafeteria right in front of the window.  One day, it gave us front row seats to a domestic dispute between two of our classmates who were in a relationship at the time.  That’s all I’m going to say about that one, though.  Touchy topic.)

Who was your science teacher freshman year?

Mrs. Manning

Who was your English teacher?

Mrs. Bratton

Who was your history teacher?

Major Payne!

Did you think you were cool?

Back then, yeah.  In hindsight, I was tragically lame.

Describe you outfits in ninth grade.

This was around the time I started falling in love with Maurices, so I wore a lot of clothes from there.  I had a pair of white Skechers with velcro straps (I was almost too embarrassed to include this.  Y’all, I was 14 and wearing velcro tennis shoes).   Those got ruined when I tried to march in them on the muddy practice field one day, though.  I remember wearing Rocket Dog flats, too (once again, why didn’t anybody call me out on this.  Well, one of my friends did tell me that Rocket Dogs were white people shoes, so I guess I was warned.  Never mind).

Did you even have a cellphone?

Yes (this question feels a tad condescending).  I had a light blue LG Scoop.  To this day, it’s still one of my favorite phones I’ve ever had.  It was on it’s last leg by the end of the year, though.  I had to tap the back of it just to get it to light up.  Struggle!

Who was your favorite teacher?

Mrs. Heston (Algebra I)

What action do you regret the most?

Nothing.  And if I did, I guess I can’t remember it.  And if I can’t remember it, then it was probably just some petty ninth grade drama.

What did you spend the most time doing on weekends?

I don’t know.  Probably sleepovers, shopping, homework, and going to the movies.  You know, the same type of stuff I like to do now, being that I’ll forever be a teenage girl internally.

Did you make any lifelong friendships?

Maybe.  Ask me this again when I’m about to die and I’ll let you know who’s still around.

Got invited to any proms?

No.  I was a baby.

How long was this to remember back to?

8 years (wow!)

X’s and O’s

JF

 

 

 

 

Is Sister, Sister the Forgotten Black Show of the 90s?

Being that all of my friend and follower lists on social media are predominately black (on account of my blackness), I’m constantly bombarded with debates.  Not debates about really important topics like the presidential election or the Syrian Civil War, but debates concerning issues such as these:

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New-School Rappers

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Classic R&B Groups

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

pic 3

R&B Divas

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Black TV Shows

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Debates like these have always been a staple throughout the black community and can be easily observed through avenues such as Black Twitter, which brought them to the forefront last year when the hashtag trend “#onegottago” became popularized.  Examples of #onegottago like the ones above sparked lively, and often hilarious, conversations about who or what was the best of the best.

Some are easy to decide on.  Take the R&B groups above for instance.  112 should easily be the one to go.  Sure, they gave us songs like “Cupid” and “Peaches & Cream,” but up against classics like “Let’s Get Married” by Jagged Edge, “End of the Road” by Boyz II Men, and Dru Hill’s entire discography (I LOVE DRU HILL.  Let me go listen to “These are the Times” and “I Should Be” right quick!…okay, I’m back), 112 simply pales in comparison.  Plus, Slim was an awful lead singer.  He just might be the worst lead singer of all time.   I guess he had “star quality,” but I don’t understand why they chose the person with the least vocal capability to sing lead.  Watch their 2015 BET Awards reunion to get a taste of what I’m talking about.  A mess.

On the other hand, others are harder to decide on.  Take a look at the R&B divas above.  All of these women are easily in my all time top ten and are probably actually my top four.  But I guess if push really came to shove, Janet would have to go.  But not without compromise, of course.  Janet can go only as long as I’m able to keep everything from the Control, Rhythm Nation, janet., The Velvet Rope, and All For You albums.  I think that’s a pretty fair deal.

But no category has been abused by #onegottago more than black TV shows (I’m aware the PC term is probably something like “sitcom featuring a predominately African-American cast,” but for the sake of this post, we’re just going to call it what it is: a black show).  If you’re a reader of this blog, you know I love a good sitcom.  I’m beyond sick of reality shows and dramas.  A majority of the black shows that get used for #onegottago come from the 90s.  The 90s were one of the golden ages of sitcoms, a time where several black shows including (but certainly not limited to) Martin, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Moesha, Living Single, The Jamie Foxx Show, and The Wayans Bros. flourished.  Black shows that originated in the 80s like The Cosby Show, A Different World, and Family Matters were still kicking, too.  Just like with the R&B singers, it’s almost impossible to choose when it comes to black shows.  They were all so good in their own ways!

A few Saturdays ago, I woke up and enjoyed a six episode marathon of Sister, Sister on TV.  I found myself genuinely laughing out loud at several moments of each episode, having forgotten how funny the show was considering I haven’t watched it in forever because I was unaware that it was still in syndication anywhere.  Sister, Sister is easily one of my favorite shows.  I even own the first season on DVD.  Being that I was born in 1994 (the same year the show originally premiered) and it ran until 1999, I have very vague memories of watching the later seasons during the late 90s.  As I grew up, channels like Disney, ABC Family, and WGN ran the show in syndication where I would watch it over and over until I had eventually seen each episode numerous times.  As I watched the marathon, I couldn’t help but to ask myself the question, “how come nobody cares about Sister, Sister anymore?”  You rarely hear people talking about how good it was or how much they love(d) it.  It’s never on one of those silly #onegottago lists.  If you ask people what the best black show of the 90s was, It’ll probably end up becoming nothing but a big Martin vs. Fresh Prince debate with maybe a few other shows tossed around for consideration.  I doubt Sister, Sister would be brought up, though.  It’s quite simply underrated!

I mean, sure, its premise is a little off.  Two Detroit twins, Tia Landry and Tamera Campbell, are separated at birth and adopted by two people who are polar opposites, sassy Lisa Landry and uptight Ray Campbell.  And then bam!  They magically meet up in a department store one day, find out they’re sisters, and move into Ray’s house to live as one big happy family.  Maybe a tad far fetched, but I’ve seen worse.  Phil of the Future’s family came from the year 2121 for goodness sake.

What was there not to love about Sister, Sister?  It was all about sisterhood and girl power!  Like that time the twins started their own cheerleading squad after the main squad rejected them.  Or when they fought back against Tia’s boss when they found out she was making less money than one of her male coworkers.  Or how Tamera goofed her way through high school, but somehow managed to pick herself up and work her way into the University of Michigan.  Or how the show found a way to spotlight the WNBA, which was new at the time, when Tia accepted an internship with them at the end of the series.  Overall, Sister, Sister featured two black teenage girls who had their stuff together.  It represented two positive role models for girls, especially black girls, to look up to both past and present, being that a lot of the episodes are still relevant today.

It also featured a progressive black woman.  We go from seeing Lisa working as an inner-city seamstress, to selling her designs on a cart at the mall (Fashions by Lisa, y’all!), to her eventually designing clothes for the likes of Patti LaBelle and Aretha Franklin by the end of the series.  Now admittedly, I always felt like Lisa’s rapid climb to success was a bit of a stretch, but hey, anything could happen.  It was TV after all.

It showcased a successful black man.  Ray owned his own limousine business, eventually ran for Michigan State Senate in the final season, and from what we could tell, was an upstanding citizen and father.  Let’s just ignore the fact that he was a Republican. (May I rant?  Thank you.  This is one of the major problems I have with black shows.  Oftentimes, the most successful character on the show is also written as a Republican.  William on ‘Girlfriends’?  A Republican.  Uncle Phil on ‘Fresh Prince’?  A Republican.  Olivia Pope on ‘Scandal’?  A Republican.  Stop it!  There are plenty of successful black Democrats!  Are you implying that black people have to sell out in order to be successful?  Or maybe I’m just overreacting because I don’t trust black Republicans.  That’s a different post for a different day, though).

So if Sister, Sister had all these wonderful qualities, how come it gets overlooked today?  I can only come up with two reasons.  The first may be that it was too squeaky clean.  It may have been too much of a family friendly show.  Let’s compare it to what is arguably the best black teen show of all time, Moesha.  While still a comedy, Moesha dealt with a variety of issues concerning teenagers such as drug use, teen pregnancy, birth control, race relations, and the loss of a parent.  Moesha had the tendency to get a bit melodramatic (I can hardly stand to watch season five with all of that Dorian-finding-out-Frank-was-his-daddy-and-not-his-uncle drama).  With the exception of the times Tia got a tattoo, Tamera started shoplifting with Gabrielle Union, and when both twins started smoking with their friends, Sister, Sister was virtually free from any real drama, and when encountered with it, handled it lightheartedly.  I mean, dang, even Vanessa got drunk at a party on The Cosby Show that one time.  Good thing Mr. Cosby didn’t make her drink…

I think Sister, Sister’s other problem may have been that it had too narrow of a demographic.  I don’t know the specifics, but as a viewer I can probably guess that the show’s intended audience was something like “females between the ages of 12 and 22.”  However, there are no strict guidelines to follow when it comes to a show’s intended audience.  Take Martin for instance.  I grew up watching and enjoying reruns of that as a kid even though I probably didn’t understand half of the jokes back then.  I did understand to laugh at characters like Sheneneh and Jerome, though.  And as an adult today, I still laugh equally as hard at that mess.  The point I’m trying to make is that shows like Martin are something a young girl could watch and enjoy equally as much as a grown woman or a grown man.  I can’t see a 40-year-old man sitting and enjoying a Sister, Sister marathon as much as I did a few weeks ago, even though I’m totally not judging him if he did.  Good TV is good TV.  However, maybe Sister, Sister is just too “kiddie” for some to be considered one of the greats.  Because its themes were targeted towards a younger audience, it doesn’t have the same longevity aspect that other shows have.

It’s a shame that we don’t recognize Sister, Sister more today, though.  It was a feel-good show that represented blacks in a positive light that the youth of today could really benefit from watching.  If anybody still cares as much as I do, Sister, Sister airs Saturdays at 10 AM CT on Up TV.

X’s and O’s

JF

 

Change of Heart

“If we don’t stand up for our children, then we don’t stand for much.” – Marian Wright Edelman

Today marks one year since I started this blog.  One of my earliest posts was all about my current journey to becoming a middle school teacher, as well as a list of all the other career aspirations I’ve had over the course of my 21-year-old life.  A year ago, I was still a little skeptical about my chosen career path and future.  I wasn’t even sure that I really wanted to teach.  I didn’t feel that I could really do it.  I still had this nagging sense that there was something else out there for me.  Looking back, I realize that a year ago I almost viewed teaching as a “last-resort-I-need-a-major-that-will-get-me-a-job” type of thing.  The fact that I felt all these things seems so scary to me now based on how far I’ve come since last March.

Today, coincidentally coinciding with the anniversary of this blog (and the almost-anniversary of the aforementioned post), myself and my fellow Internship I classmates attended a mandatory CMLA (Collegiate Middle Level Association) Conference on the campus of our university.  We attended sessions concerning our chosen content areas,  effective strategies to use with middle level learners, and a keynote presentation about “The Weird In-Between” AKA the middle school years.  We also ate a lunch that included chicken fried steak as the entree.  I typically think chicken fried steak is the worst kind of meat (which is practically blasphemous considering I’m southern), but it was absolutely delicious today!  I don’t know.  Maybe I was hungry.

Okay, enough about chicken.  Back to middle school.

Today was absolutely great.  All of us interns left talking about how we felt a sudden urge to change the world and to go and teach our hearts out right then and there.  I know it sounds cheesy, but that’s what your purpose will do to you.  That’s the keyword for this post: purpose.  Since I started Internship I in January, I’ve steadily felt myself discovering my purpose more and more.  It’s felt so dope, too!  Every day I spend with my 5th graders, I realize more and more that I can be a teacher and that this is what I was meant to do.  Today further cemented this reality for me.

One of the main things I noticed about my post from last March is that I seemed to have been very content focused.  Language arts and social studies are my hearts.  A year ago, those were my main motivators behind becoming a teacher.  I had this whole golden idea of getting kids excited about those two subject areas.  We were going to “learn! learn! learn!” while still having “fun! fun! fun!”  While I still plan to implement this idea into my classroom, I quickly found out that there is way more to middle level education than just content and learning.

Any middle school expert will tell you that there is so much more to teaching adolescents than just teaching them.  So much more.  So, SO much more.  Middle school teachers practically double as an educator and a counselor.  There’s a stigma attached to working with middle school kids.  Dealing with moody, hormonal adolescents is a daily challenge.  Kids come into classrooms with a million different problems that we might never know anything about.  They deal with tough stuff.  Stuff that I never had to deal with when I was their age and stuff that I’ve still never dealt with now that I’m older.  On the flip side of that, though, middle schoolers are sweet and loving.  They want your attention and they want to please you.  They’re funny!  Well, 8th graders on the other hand…that’s another blog post for another day.  But overall, this age group is amazing!

These kids are the center of education.  My professors have always preached this, and I had this “yeah, yeah, yeah, I get it” attitude about it, but being in the actual classroom has truly allowed me to see this.  I’ve always had a weird relationship with kids.  I could take ’em or leave ’em.  However, kids have always gravitated towards me for some reason, even though I’m not always the most welcoming towards them.  Even my own hairstylist said she couldn’t believe I had chosen to be a teacher because she didn’t see me wanting to work with kids.  Another stylist in the shop said, “Jessie, you like kids?!”  All I could do was laugh.  I do like kids.  Kids over the age of 10.  For some reason, I’ve always clicked well with adolescents.  Maybe it’s because I share a lot of the same personality  traits as middle schoolers.  I don’t know.  One of my instructors says you have to be a little bit crazy to teach middle school.  I totally agree.

Given the way I view kids, I did not expect to fall in love with the students in my Internship classes as quickly as I did.  Case in point: About two weeks in, my students were giving presentations over early “New World” explorers.  As they were getting ready to present with their partners, one little girl said she was nervous.  When I asked her why, she answered, “because I’m not smart.”  This hit me right in my heart.  I’m not an emotional person or a crier at all, but for some reason I was feeling extra emotional this morning.  This child almost made me cry.  This was the moment I realized I truly had a heart for these children and their well-being.  I told her that she was not allowed to ever say that about herself again, especially when I was around.  On a previous day, me and this same student had talked about how much we loved cheerleading and watching cheer competitions.  She told me she knew how to do a round-off, which supremely impressed me because I used to spend hours trying to do those in my yard in my younger (and much thinner) days.  I later wrote this girl a note, telling her that she was smart because she rocked her presentation AND knew how to do a round-off, showing her that she was not only smart, but talented, too.  I saw her in the hallway later that day and she said, “I read the note” with a big smile.  I’m glad it made both of us feel good.

I’ve connected with other students in my Internship classes who have given me the same”thwonk” feeling in my heart that she did.  Being an educator is so much more than teaching kids their ABCs and 123s.  It’s about getting to know and understand them in order to invest in them so that they can recognize and live up to their full potential.  In that stupid post I did last year, I used the highly offensive phrase, “those who can’t, teach.”  We need to change that to “those who can’t sit back and not have an impact on the lives of children, teach.”  That was really bad, but you get the point I’m trying to make.

Today, I was a black girl who learned something without having to use Urban Dictionary.  I learned, more specifically felt, purpose.

Jessie luh da kids!

X’s and O’s,

JF

Missed Memories

Someone was asked, “What is your most missed memory?”  Their response was, “How could you miss a memory?”

I scoffed and thought to myself, “easily.”

I miss standing in my grandmother’s backyard listening to cars drive down the interstate (which is the most relaxing sound ever, by the way), making up stories about the drivers, like where they were going, how their day was, who they were going home to.

I miss being 17.

I miss my dad.

I miss watching him grill.

I miss him setting me on his shoulders as a child as we walked through Walmart so I could stunt on the other kids.

I miss summers where I got to sleep until noon, then wake up and watch shows like Jerry Springer and Maury all day.

I miss playing in my other grandmother’s yard after church while her noisy neighbors across the street blasted 96.5 and would turn the music up upon my request when I heard a song that I liked come on.  Curse the country station that bought them out.

I miss honeysuckle juice.

I miss shouting “7:57!” at my mom back when she still drove me to school, that being the absolute latest time we could leave the house in order to avoid me getting a tardy.

I miss Barbies.

I miss developing video game concepts with my cousin on the bus ride home after school.  We could’ve been billionaires by now.

I miss music groups.

I miss music period.

I miss Happy Meals.

I miss Nicktoons.

I miss Disney Channel.

I miss swing sets.

I miss themed family movie nights.  Yes, we were that family.

I miss the old BET.

I miss walking the dirt roads of Blackwell every summer.

I miss kickball tournaments.

I miss family vacations.

I miss the days of the summer when I first got my Jeep and my sunroof actually still worked and I rode around blasting Beyonce and Adele all day.

I miss not having responsibilities.

I miss second grade.

Turns out I miss everything that ended up making me what and who I am today.

Can you really miss a memory?  I guess I’m not so sure anymore.

X’s and O’s,

JF

Why To Pimp a Butterfly Should Win Album of the Year (And Why It May Not)

“Like books and black lives, albums still matter.” – Prince, 2015 Grammy Awards

I’ve been so busy lately that I feel like one of my favorite events has sneaked up on me out of nowhere.  I’m just now realizing that the Grammy Awards are only a week away.  The GRAMMYs are a time for music lovers like myself to come together and celebrate the “best” in music for the year.  I put best in quotations because oftentimes, these past few years especially, it seems as if the GRAMMYs haven’t always awarded the right acts.  Rather it be nomination snubs or winner upsets, here are some of the most surprising outcomes over the past few years:

  • Esperanza Spalding beating Justin Bieber and Drake for Best New Artist (2011)
  • Beck beating Beyonce for Album of the Year (2015)
  • Arcade Fire beating Lady Gaga, Eminem, and Katy Perry for Album of the Year (2011)
  • Kanye West not receiving an Album of the Year nomination for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2012)
  • And wait, hold up (I’m doing my research as I type this, by the way)…Fetty Wap didn’t get a nomination for Best New Artist this year?  Come on, son! (and I’m being completely serious, too.  Mr. Wap had three top 10 singles and his impact on pop culture is undeniable.  How many 10-year-old white kids have you witnessed singing “Trap Queen?”  I rest my case) (2015)

Another surprising Grammy upset happened in 2014, when Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ The Heist beat Kendrick Lamar’s (the man of the hour for this post) good kid, m.A.A.d city for Best Rap Album.  The results sent social media into an uproar and ended with Macklemore sending Kendrick an apology text for winning, one in which he felt the need to share publicly through his Instagram account for some reason.  Spare me! (I have special feelings about Macklemore, but won’t get into them here).

Did Kendrick losing and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis winning change our opinions of good kid, m.A.A.d city, though?  No.  If you ask any hip-hop fan right now to choose between the two, I’m more than sure GKMC would win by a landslide.  I think Wendy Williams explains the award system best.  She always uses Tom Cruise as an example.  Does he have an Oscar?  No.  Do we care?  No, because we all know he’s still a great actor.  The same can be applied to the GRAMMYs.  No matter who takes that little gramophone statue home, the art that made the biggest impression on your soul is the only one that will matter years down the line.  Exhilarating isn’t it?  Music, its power!

But while I am on team “arts over awards,” my heart just might break if one category doesn’t go my way this year.  I’m talking about Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly winning Album of the Year.

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My sister got me a poster of this album cover for Christmas.  Remind me to get a frame for it!

Along with Drake and J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar is undoubtedly one of the leaders of new school hip-hop.  K. Dot’s critically acclaimed third studio album has earned him 11 Grammy nominations this year, making him the most nominated artist for next week’s ceremony.

TPAB is striking for two reasons.  The first is it’s sound.  Musically, the album is a fusion of jazz, funk, neo-soul, and hip-hop.  Think about the George Clinton-influenced sound of Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle album and times it by one hundred.  It sounds like the soundtrack to a Spike Lee movie, and that’s fine with me because I live for Spike Lee and all his weirdness (*makes mental note to check out Chi-raq and also write a post about why we should boycott Tyler Perry movies*).  Where was I again?  Oh, yeah.  In a 2016 world fully of hip-hop trap beats like “Look At My Dab” (which I admittedly turn up to with no shame) TPAB is a breath of fresh air.

The second reason TPAB is so striking is its relevancy.  Released last spring, it came out just a month before Eric Harris, Walter Scott, and Freddie Gray were all killed in April.  Gosh, that was a rough time.  And let’s not forget that it came just months after the murders of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, and countless others.  The album was pretty much released in the middle of the Black Lives Matter movement and couldn’t have come at a better time.  With its themes of poverty, colorism, black-on-black crime (sigh), and wealth & success among many others, TPAB struck a major chord with millions of Americans at the time of its release.

*All interpretations are my own.  I did not use Rap Genius*

The album kicks off with “Wesley’s Theory.”  The song opens with the Boris Gardiner line “every n*gga is a star” (I’m no prude, but for the sake of keeping it classy here at Black Girls Who Use Urban Dictionary Enterprises, I’ll be censoring lyrics) and goes on to explore how black men in America often reach success and make a lot of money, but have nobody around to teach them how to manage it.  The title is a reference to actor Wesley Snipes, who served a three year sentence from 2010-2013 for tax fraud.  Keep in mind the line “what you want?  You [want] a house or a car?  Forty acres and a mule, a piano?  A guitar?  Anything you see my name is Uncle Sam, I’m your dog.  Motherf*cker you can live at the mall.  I know your kind, that’s why I’m kind”  Here, Kendrick is looking into how easily the black man is awarded with riches, but questions who is going to be around to help him keep it.

“King Kunta” details how Kendrick’s friendships has been affected by him becoming a successful black man in America.  Hence the oxymoron of a title.  While he’s acknowledging that he’s a successful man, he still recognizes that he’s a black man, simulating himself with the character Kunta Kinte from Alex Haley’s Roots.  Kendrick repeatedly talks about how he has the “yams,” which could symbolize power and status as they do in Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Falls Apart (which is one of my favorite books, by the way).  Kendrick uses the lyrics, “b*tch where [was] you when I was walking?  Now I run the game got the whole world talking, King Kunta, everybody wanna cut the legs off him, Kunta, black man taking no losses,” to show how the same people who weren’t interested in him when he wasn’t famous want to hold him back from success now.

“Alright” is a celebratory and hopeful anthem.  “If God got us then we gone be alright,” fully sums up the message of this track.  Whereas our ancestors sang spirituals while they marched, “Alright” has become a staple at Black Lives Matters protests, with “we gone be alright!” often being chanted by activists, as seen in places like Chicago and Cleveland.  Kendrick, his power!  Oh, yeah!  Remember the Uncle Sam line from “Wesley’s Theory?”  Here we see Kendrick use that same exact line, but replaces Uncle Sam with Lucy, which is short for Lucifer.  This is where we see a shift in the album.  Along with “U” (the track before “Alright” where Kendrick discusses his struggles with guilt and accepting himself), we begin to see Kendrick take a more introspective approach for about the next four tracks.

“For Sale? Interlude” gives us a closer view into who Lucy really is.  You know the whole idea of the devil tempting you in the form of something beautiful and not in the form of something ugly like you think he’d might appear?  Kendrick plays right into this idea, with “Lucy” enticing him, saying things like, “Lucy gone fill your pockets, Lucy gone move your mama out of Compton inside the gigantic mansion like I promised, Lucy just want your trust and loyalty.”  “For Sale” symbolizes Kendrick’s struggles between good and evil (something we all can relate to), which have only escalated since his fame.  While it’s one of the darkest songs on the album lyrically, it happens to be masked by one of the most mellow melodies out of them all.  Let 3:30-4:20 bless you.

“How Much a Dollar Cost” is arguably the best song on the album.  No.  I’m not even willing to argue this.  It’s the best song on the album.  President Obama even named this his favorite song of 2015.  You know what, just stop reading this and go listen to it right now.  Go!  If you’re still here, the song recounts a real-life run in Kendrick once had with a homeless man and follows the conflicted feelings he has after refusing to give the man a dollar once he passes him off as just another bum.  My favorite thing about this song is all of its religious allegory.  Lines like “Have you ever opened up Exodus 14?  A humble man is all that we ever need,” and when the legendary Ron Isley sings “I wash my hands, I said my grace, what more do you want from me?,” it’s a direct correlation to Pilate in the Bible when he attempts to wash his hands clean after sentencing Jesus to death, even though he knew it wasn’t the right thing to do.  This mirrors Kendrick’s conflicted feelings.  Genius!!!

“Complexion (A Zulu Love)” is a gem on the album that took me awhile to appreciate.  This is partly due to the fact that I’m usually so slain from “How Much a Dollar Cost” that I can’t even imagine Kendrick topping himself and have to turn the album off.  Slay me, Kendrick!  “Complexion” looks at how light and dark skin blacks pit themselves against each other, and how we should put an end to colorism because “complexion don’t mean a thing,” AKA “we all black, so hush!”  The best line from this track is rapper Rhapsody’s line where she says, “black as brown, hazelnut, cinnamon, black tea, and it’s all beautiful to me.”  It basically makes this song the black is beautiful anthem of the 21st century.

“The Blacker the Berry” is the most aggressive and racially charged song on the album.  Kendrick is unapologetically black in this piece, calling the American society out for  its stereotypical views and oppression of black people.  Kendrick starts every verse off with “I’m the biggest hypocrite of 2015.”  After a long rant of pro-black stereotypes he feels he plays into, Kendrick finishes the final verse with “so why did I weep when Trayvon Martin was in the street when gang banging made me kill a n*gga blacker than me?  Hypocrite!”  Here, he’s calling himself out on an issue several blacks feel conflicted on: black-on-black crime.  You know, why cry over Trayvon Martin when guys up the block are killing each other everyday?  Why am I not as upset over that?  That’s a different topic for a different post, though.  Not tonight.

So how can an album that is so thought-provoking, musically and lyrically superior, and relevant to what’s going on in America right now not take home the award for Album of the Year?

In this category, Kendrick is up against Alabama Shakes for Sound & Color, Chris Stapleton for Traveller, Taylor Swift for 1989, and The Weeknd for Beauty Behind the Madness (which I finally decided is a great album after having to give it five listens).  Out of all of these albums, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Chris Stapleton walked away with the award.  I have no problem with admitting that I don’t even know who Chris Stapleton is.  That’s just the thing with the GRAMMYs, though.  Like the list at the top of this post, it always seems like the person you’d least expect to win, well, wins.  It’s always the dark horse who comes and steals everyone’s thunder.  And just because I’ve never heard of Chris Stapleton doesn’t mean his album is any less great than Kendrick’s.  The same idea can be applied to all of those “upsets” on the list above.  Just because something isn’t as well known as something else doesn’t diminish its greatness.

And that’s why my rule of arts over awards shall prevail.  Whatever happens next Monday night, I know what To Pimp a Butterfly has done for and will continue to do for my people.  We gone be alright.  (And no, we will not march if Kendrick doesn’t win like some suggested on Twitter.)

The GRAMMYs air February 15 at 8PM ET/5PM on CBS.

X’s and O’s,

JF

Yes Please.

I’ve always had this weird habit of creating omens for myself and believing in them wholeheartedly.  I read a fair amount of the Pretty Little Liars series by Sara Shepard in high school.  One book detailed how the character Emily Fields would create omens for herself to determine how her day would go.  One of them was something like “if that bag crosses to the right side of the street, I’ll have a good day.  If it crosses to the left, I’ll have a bad day.”  I’m pretty sure I’m way off on that, but it’s been about five years since I read it so forgive me.  The point is, Emily would use completely random events to determine how her day or other circumstances in her life would play out.  I immediately connected with her because I’ve always done the same type of thing.  For instance, I’m the last person who leaves my house every morning.  Once everyone else is gone, I put my iPod on the docking station (yes, I still use an iPod) and blast my music as loudly as possible in order to wake me up and motivated me to start getting ready.  I typically keep my iPod on shuffle, so about five songs in I always find myself playing this little game that goes something like “if the next song that plays is gospel, then I’ll have a good day.  If not, I’ll have a bad day.”  Completely irrational?  Yes.  Do I believe in it, though?  Yes.

In 2015 I realized something about myself.  I realized that I say no a lot.  “Can you give me a ride?”  No.  “Wanna hang out?”  No.  “Wanna go out to eat?”  No.  “Wanna come over?”  No.  I even said no to donating to St. Jude’s a few weeks ago when I was in Best Buy picking up Chris Brown’s latest CD (yes, I also still prefer physical copies of CDs).  As soon as I got back to the car, I realized I had said no to sick children and yes to Chris Brown.  What had I become?!

I believe my habit of saying no stems from my introverted and homebody ways.  I’ve talked about this several times on this blog.  I’m a proud introvert who does not require the company of others to keep me entertained (See My Very Own Personal List of “The Worst” Personality Traits and How to Deal With Them).  I don’t hate people, I just enjoy the liberty of being able to pick and choose when I’m around them, a liberty I exercise frequently.  However, I’ve began to ponder what my life would be like/could become if I actually said”yes” more.  There are a few things that have been pushing me in that direction.

The influence pop culture has on my life is an interesting one.  For instance, last semester I even wrote a 14 page Beyonce-inspired research paper focusing on black feminists of the 1960s (my main argument was that involuntary sterilization abuse being experienced by black women was one of the driving factors in them creating their own feminist movements separate from the mainstream white women’s movement going on at the same time.  It was a super interesting topic (if I do say so myself) and I encourage you to look into it.  Google “Mississippi Appendectomy” for starters.  I LOVE studying about 1960s counterculture!  It’s the most interesting part of American history to me, considering I’m not that big of an American history fan anyway).  Okay, what was I talking about again?  Oh yeah.  It turns out that pop culture actually plays a major role in my decision to say yes more.  Two specific instances have occurred lately that have led me to such a choice.

One of my favorite current TV shows is black-ish.  One of this season’s episodes centers on Dre and Rainbow’s (Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross’) decision to start saying yes more.  This leads to them sitting through two hilarious church services in one of the funniest episodes so far this season.  In the end, they find that saying yes more actually has positive effects on them and the rest of the family.  What positive effects would saying yes more have on my life?  Hmmm…

Last month I was browsing my Kindle for books to read over Christmas break.  One of the first books in my suggestions was Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes.  The title alone stuck out to me considering I’d had this idea of saying yes more lingering around in my head for quite sometime.  If this wasn’t a sign, I don’t know what was.

Most people would have been like “whatever” to these two things, but of course I read them as omens.  Why not give this saying-yes-more thing a try?  Last year I did a post outlining the areas of my life that could use improvement.  These areas were God, family, friends, school, and myself.  Saying yes more will be beneficial in all of these areas:

“Yes” to God’s will and way.

“Yes” to helping family members in need.

“Yes” to being there for my friends more.

“Yes” to being more structured academically.

“Yes” to me for simply being me (yaaaaas).

“Yes” to living and loving in general.

Now let’s see how long this lasts.  I almost said no to a social invitation Saturday night before finding myself breathing a sigh of relief when the other person cancelled.  Funny how things change yet remain the same, isn’t it?

X’s and O’s

JF

Take This Gift and Love It

*Because this is a post about gifts, I’m dedicating it to a kid who was in my fifth grade class named Aaron Polk.  I just remembered he made me the most fire mix CD that year.  Wherever you may be, thank you.*

I.  Love.  Christmas.  Christmas isn’t just one day to me, it’s a culture.  An event.  I could seriously write separate posts about all the things I love about it.  The elements are infinite!  It’s my absolute favorite holiday and the most wonderful time of the year.  Cliche, I know, but what beats an extended break from school, Christmas trees, lights and decorations, the music (because “Silver Bells” is the best and SO underrated.  Don’t judge me), the movies (Home Alone 2 and The Santa Clause 2 are far better than their predecessors, not up for debate), the food, family, friends, love, cheer and if you’re lucky, snow?  All happening at the same time?  Nothing.  That’s what.

It’s the little things, too.  For NBA fans like myself, it’s opening presents and eating and watching games all day.  It’s also the special individual memories everyone holds.  My sister got a camcorder for Christmas one year and I still love watching home videos from Christmas 2002 when I manage to dig the VCR out.  It’s the commercials.  Oh. My. Goodness. I love Christmas commercials! The feeling of joy that happens when you see and hear the Hershey’s Kisses playing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” for the first time during the season?  That soothing feeling I get from the Corona commercial where the palm tree lights up while “O, Christmas Tree” whistles in the background?  The Campbell’s Soup one where the kid transforms from a snowman back to human form once he goes inside and takes a bite of soup?  There’s nothing like it!  And the fact that all of this occurs for roughly two months and not just one single day like other holidays such as Thanksgiving and Easter makes it even better.

But being the stereotypical superficial and consumerist American I am, my absolute favorite part about Christmas has got to be the gifts.  I know I probably sound like a bad Christian for not choosing Jesus, but that’s a given.  I celebrate Him everyday and I’m more than aware that Jesus is the reason for the season.  Besides, if you want to get technical, Jesus was a gift; the gift of eternal life.  You can’t beat that!  So there, I love gifts.  Giving and receiving.  My parents, who I once believed were Santa Clause, always found a way to get whatever me and my sister wanted for Christmas.  Nothing compared to waking up on Christmas morning and seeing all of the things we had written to the “North Pole” for.  Things like my Barbie Beach Bungalow House that had the pool on the top deck that had a pump so you could turn it into a Jacuzzi if you wanted to.  My Lite Brite that would start smoking if I left it plugged in too long.  My Bratz Styling head, whose hair I tried to cut into a chic bob once that resulted in an uneven mess which I was sure would magically grow back one day, never minding the fact that she was an inanimate object.  For someone who typically hates surprises, unwrapping a present is one of my favorite things.  The charm and mystery in playing “ooooh, what’d ya get me” is so much fun and never gets old.

While I love receiving gifts, I’ve realized that I’m a bad gift giver.  Like that time I got my cousin a $10 gift card to Rue 21 and she looked at it and said “$10?!  What am I supposed to do with that!”  Okay, looking back $10 was a ridiculous amount to give.  Rue 21 is cheap, but not that cheap.  She still didn’t have to react that way, though.  Tacky!  Then there was that time I gave my mom and sister some notepads I made in my desktop publishing class senior year of high school.  Or that time I ordered my sister a hideous phone case from China with quotes from The Fault in Our Stars scribbled all over it.  She reacted with that forced smile and “awww, thanks” combo that you give someone when you receive something you don’t really care for, the same reaction that I learned to master at an early age.  However, the combination of being a bad gift giver and receiving bad gifts over the years has made me a more appreciative person.  Let me explain.

I was a Girl Scout from second to fifth grade, which is the reason I use to justify my purchasing of their cookies every year in order to hide the fact that I’m just being a big fatty.  Let me be as I support my tribe.  Anyway, one year our troop did what I guess you could call a Secret Santa.  Each person brought a wrapped gift to our meeting and sat it on a table.  One by one we got up and chose any present we wished.  I chose a square box that was solid and weighty.  I don’t remember what I thought it was, but I just knew that I had chosen the best gift there.  After everyone had chosen a gift, we all unwrapped them at the same time.  What I unwrapped turned out to be a bell in the shape of Noah’s Ark with all of the animals spewing out the top of the ark.  A bell.  A ringing bell.

Being the classy 8-year-old I was at the time, I immediately declared (in the same fashion as my tacky cousin mentioned earlier) something like “what is this?!  A bell!  What am I supposed to do with this?!”  To make matters worse, we never shared what each person was responsible for bringing, so that meant I was openly dissing someone’s gift right in front of them.  I looked across the room and saw the “girl, if you don’t shut up right now” look on my mother’s face and decided to be quiet and watch in agony as the other girls played with the dolls, makeup sets, dress up shoes, and art kits they had chosen.

When we got home that night, my mother told me to never ever behave that way in public again and to always appreciate any thing that anybody ever gives me, no matter how much I don’t like it.  And from that point on, that’s what I’ve done.  I guess the way my cousin reacted to that Rue 21 gift card was karma for the way I reacted to that bell.  Being a bad gift giver and receiver has caused me to humbly accept bad gifts like:

Nail Strengthener – Before my grandmother officially retired a few years ago, she would sit part of the day and care for an elderly lady whose daughter would be gone to work.  On Christmas Eve night a couple of years ago, the lady’s daughter dropped off my grandmother’s Christmas present and also presents for me and my sister.  She handed me a small red, velvet box which inside had something wrapped in gold, glittery tissue paper.  I was thinking “oh, this is probably a nice pair of earrings.  How lovely.”  I unwrapped it to find a single bottle of nail strengthener.  Not polish or a set complete with base and top coats or anything like that, just strengthener.  I smiled and said thank you because it was the thought that counted.

Yahtzee – When I was probably 7 or 8, my aunt got me Yahtzee.  It was like, forget Chutes and Ladders or Candy Land, I’m going to get this kid Yahtzee.  Does anybody even really know how to play Yahtzee?  I never took the time to learn how to play, but instead would randomly take the cup out and rattle the dice around in it for fun (I’ve always been easily entertained).  I think this was the same year she gave my sister Chinese Checkers, another board game kids don’t care about.  I shut my mouth and accepted it, though, because she didn’t have to give me anything at all.

Car Visor Clip – When I was about 14 or 15, my other grandmother (not the one with ties to the nail strengthener lady) gave all the granddaughters in the family car visor clips in the shape of a guardian angel who held a sign that read “GRANDDAUGHTER, PLEASE DRIVE SAFELY.”  I didn’t even have a license yet, let alone a car, so the gift was pretty useless at the time.  She even gave my youngest cousin one, who was probably 10 at the time.  What was she going to do with it?  Stick it on her bike spokes?  I ended up putting mine in my mom’s car, ignoring the fact that she was a daughter-in-law and not a granddaughter, until I got a car of my own.  Another thing that makes this a semi-bad gift is that she gave it twice.  A couple of years later when I did have my own car, she gave all of us the same clip again.  She’s gotten understandably forgetful in her older age, so I didn’t have the heart to tell her she had already gifted it once.  So for a short time I had two guardian angels in my car, one on each visor.  I’m down to one now, though, because the other flew off somewhere (no pun intended) and I’ve yet to find it.

*We believe these clips hold some sort of special power.  My sister claims that every time hers slips off, she almost has a wreck.  Coincidence?  I think not.

A Used Journal – I’ve loved to write all of my life, so gifts relating to stationary in any form have always worked for me.  So in middle school, one of my best friends at the time gave me a journal after we decided to exchange gifts for Christmas.  Too bad the journal was one I had seen them write in numerous times and when I opened it, several of the used pages had been ripped out.  I wasn’t that messed up that the gift was used (even though that did kind of suck), it was the fact that I had actually spent (my parents’) money on them.  Had I known, I would’ve ripped out the used pages of the 88 cent composition notebook that I always carried around back then and gifted it to them.  Merry Christmas!

A Gift Bag Full of Bootleg DVDs – One Sunday after church, one of our ushers handed my sister a green bag with “Merry Christmas” written on it in pretty, glittery, gold lettering and said, “share this with your sister.”  Turns out the gift bag was full of bootleg DVDs of movies that were still in theaters or had yet to have been released on video.  Wait.  Maybe this gift wasn’t so bad after all.  Free (illegal) movies.  I like movies.  Hm.

If all else fails, simply give the gift of love this holiday season.

X’s and O’s and Merry Christmas,

JF

*Romans 6:23.