Month: July 2009

A Final RSVP

s_sad_face1Dearest Friends,

Thank you so much for the invitations to the regattas, your niece’s badminton championships and outdoor Moliere festivals. However, I must regrettably RSVP by saying that I am unable to attend.

As much as I would enjoy these al fresco events with you, I simply am not able. As you know, once a person is sufficiently sunburned, the sun has a much more devastating effect on the skin. You no longer burn. You…(shaking as I say this)…tan.

Obviously, tanning is unacceptable for a person in my position. I hope that you can understand.

In the meantime, I will see you indoors, or in the fall.

Ivy League Outrage

1_21_gates_henry_louisI was understanably embarassed and upset when I read about Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the Harvard professor who was arrested when trying to gain entry into his own home. Mr. Gates returned home from a trip overseas and had to force his way into his house when he was unable to open the door.

A neighbor called police and reported that “two black males with backpacks on the porch” were trying to break in. Mr. Gates was arrested shortly thereafter.

Many things upset me about this. Namely Mr. Gates’s clear ignorance of the Oreo way to do things.

1. Backpacks. Backpacks are acceptible a) for middle schoolers, b) on homeless people and c) in hostels in Europe as wealthy tourists pretend to be middle class.

A good Oreo knows that s/he should travel with rolling luggage and pressed garment bags with clearly identifiable name brand insignia plastered about the fine leather skin.

2. Off-label polo. If you look at Mr. Gate’s mug shot, you will see that his shirt, while collared is unmarked. Any animal or set of letters embroidered above the left breast lets anyone seeing you know that you belong…in this gated community.

3. Weakness in Numbers. Mr. Gates arrived at his home with another black man. This simply cannot be done. One of us can slip by unnoticed. More than one in the same place and you run the risk of being noticed and slipping into conversation about similar experiences. As cathartic as that can be, the risk is simply too high.

3. Improper Introduction. When police showed up at Gates’s home and asked him to let himself be arrested, Gates responded by saying: “Why? Because I’m a black man in America?” Two things are wrong with this statement.

a) Admitting to being black. An Oreo must never do this. People will always be suspecting. Do not give them the ammunition they need.

b) The sentiment was not followed by an ironic burst of laughter or scones. Nothing assuages uncomfortable admittance of faults like some properly pressed flour.

Mr. Gates is back at home now and all charges have been dropped. While I am glad for him, I worry that this kind of sloppy behaviour will continue. We must all be vigilant.

Excuse me now as I grab my Prada bag and sit on my porch with some creme fraiche and wave at my neighbors.

Manhattan Beach Isn’t Big Enough For Both of Us

onceI appreciate your appreciation of the venue, sir, but we really need to work out a schedule.

The night started off so well. I had been invited to a roast of a fellow kayaker. He was off to begin training in earnest for the 2012 Olympics and so a few of his besties gathered at a swanky pub, oceanfront, in Manhattan Beach.

Most of the stories told that night involved copious amounts of alcohol and as the night went on, I realized were being told with copious amounts of alcohol behind them. The words of my fellow boaters came out slurred and while funny, were ultimately unremarkable.

Then I got up to speak. There was a definite quiet that fell. I have heard this quiet over and over again in my life. For example when teachers would call on me for the first time in school. A quiet that tries to be open minded, but can’t help but feel tense.

I began with a perfect impression of our former coach, who was Australian and had a mighty crush on Kayaker. Then moved on to replicate the voice of our opera singer club member who sang as she paddled—even the day that Kayaker was paddling with a severe hangover (he ultimately found it less painful to capsize near an eddy than keep listening). And wrapped the whole thing up by reminding the group of Kayaker’s younger, Faustian days when he once called a lover by the name he gave his boat.

I left the stage to appreciative applause. Not just at my fun stories, or at the fact that I was the only sober one on the room. But at the fact that the other attendees realized that I did belong and could they feel better about themselves because they could diversify their friend portfolio without sacrificing quality or safety.

Then you walked in.

Now, I understand that I was the first person you made eye contact with, but did you have to walk up to me and ask me a question? Never mind that you were asking about directions to the Captain’s Club. The others in the room didn’t know that. All they knew is that I was talking to someone who looked more like me than they ever could—even if they went paddling without a wetsuit every day at noon for a month.

I stopped being the clever exception to the rule and became fairly typical.

“So how do you guys know each other?” Kayaker’s current girlfriend asked me as you were leaving.

I told her very quickly that I didn’t know you and that you were just looking for directions.

“That’s too bad,” she offered. “I thought he was your boyfriend, you two would make a cute couple!”

The ultimate slap in the face. She gave no such credit to the blonde slolamer I had been chatting up all night long. But I made my way back to the conversation I left to handle you, expecting it to pick up where it left off.

“Where’d your friend go?” Slolamer asked.

I’ve set this house of cards up very carefully, sir. Please do not topple it. Next time you’re going to head to an Oreo approved location, check the list. If one of us is there, you’ll have to get better directions before you leave home.

Qui N’amie Pas Frenching?

FrenchRevolution1Happy Bastille Day.

I am pleased when I look at my calendar and see printed on July 14, a reminder that oppressed people occasionally stand up for their rights.

Bastille Day, or Fete Nationale, as it is called by the French, commemorates the day that the French middle class stood up to the aristocracy, stormed a prison with seven people being held in it and put France on the path toward being what it is today.

What makes me even happier is that the calendar is very particular to choose to honor a very particular group of oppressed people.

Here in the States, we have our revolution marked on the calendar of course, we’ve French independence covered today and we even throw Boxing Day a bone,  but we don’t have any days marked that honor the uprisings led by enslaved peoples on American soil.

And thank goodness for that.

Remembering Bastille Day gives us uplifting, inspiring and beautiful musicals like Les Mis. Putting a pin in July 14 allows us to sip café au lait, enjoy beignets and think about Monet, Manet, Millet. Taking a moment to think about the brave bourgeoisie brings us one step closer to pretty things like the Eiffel Tower, the Champs Elysse and the Louvre.  Likewise, July 4th is fun and filled with fireworks and food. Boxing Day makes us feel a bit closer to our Canadian compatriots, our British buddies and our Kiwi cousins.

If we had a day where we had to think about slaves struggling for some scrap of dignity just makes us feel bad. Like an awkward family dinner at Thanksgiving. And no amount of stuffing and sweet potatoes can get ride of that taste.

And besides, the French are all romantic and stuff and thus, their wars must be, too. Slaves were simply a sign of the times. No need to belabor the point by segregating a square on the calendar.
And really, which is more fun to say? “Bon Jour de Bastille,” or “Happy Slave Day?”

Who Doesn’t Like Frenching?

FrenchRevolution1Bonne Jour de Bastille ! Salut et fraternite !

Je suis heureuse, quand je regarde mon agenda, de pouvoir lire, a la date du 14 juillet, le rappel de la defense par les opprimés de leurs droits.

Le Jour de la Bastille, ou “La prise de la Bastille”, comme disent les Français, commémore ce jour ou la classe moyenne française a tenu tête à l’aristocratie et a pris une prison d’assaut. Cette prison ne renfermait que sept individus. Cet acte symbolique a ete fondateur de la France que nous connaissons.

C’est ce qui me rend heureuse. Un jour sur mon calendrier est dedie a la defense de l’opprime.

Le souvenir du Jour de la Bastille nous apporte du reconfort, et inspira de belles comedies musicales comme “Les Miserables”. Marquons le 14 juillet d’une pierre blanche pour boire du café au lait a petites gorgees avec un croissant tout en pensant à Monet, Manet ou le Millet. Prenons un moment pour penser à la brave bourgeoisie et faire un pas vers les merveilleuses choses que sont la Tour Eiffel, les Champs Elysee et le musee du Louvres.

Nous ne marquons pas d’une pierre blanche sur nos calendriers les insurrections menées par les Africains asservis sur le sol américain, ni la marche sur Washington, ni aucun des trajets de bus réputés à Alabama.

Penser aux esclaves se battant pour un rogaton de dignité nous fait nous sentir mal. Comme un souvenir de sordide roti dominical en famille. Et nul gavage ne peut effacer ce souvenir. Quel contraste avec ce que nous avons lu dans nos manuels scolaires !

Le Français est romantique et ainsi, ses guerres doivent l’être egalement. Tandis que l’esclavage n’était qu’un signe des temps : Aucun besoin de ratiociner la-dessus en le signalant sur le calendrier… Alors, qu’est-il le plus agreable a souhaiter ? “Bonne Jour de Bastille !” ou “Bon jour d’esclave !” ?

Fox and Friends: Should be all for Assimilation; Instead, Hurts the Cause

At just over a minute into this clip, Brian Kilmeade says that Americans suffer because we marry “other species and other ethnics.”

It’s not so much the xenophobia or racism inherent in this sound bite that worries me. It’s that people may listen and make it much harder for ethnics like me to find a pure-blooded American mate.

But it looks like I have some other folks in my corner, working to debunk Kilmeade and keep my options open.

Gawker

Salon

Huffington Post – Super kudos for using the phrase “murder of idiot crows.”

Everyone Helps Us Try to Fit In…Or Out

Thanks to the folks at 11points.com for reminding us why the Oreo fight must go on with their article, “11 Photos Where Black People Were Awkwardly Photoshopped In or Out.”

Whether it’s Canadians, Olympians, ad executives or The Queen, people at large just don’t know what to do with the average ethnic; so why not make it easier for them by blending in as much as possible.

Granted, we’ll put some mediocre Photoshop artists out of business, but we’ll push some guilt out of the collective consciousness as well.

Check out the rest of Into to Editing Style photos here.