Month: April 2011

Sometimes, Despite Your Best Efforts….

and Peter Pan collar, things like this happen.

I went to a screenwriting panel this week, composition notebook in hand, poignant questions at the ready, joke for Graham Yost rehearsed (it totally landed, btw!). I was sitting in a row by myself when I was approached by this RBP.

I know he was an RBP not just because he was black, but because when he introduced himself to me, the next thing he said was “Yo, how you learn to be so articulate  like that. You talk so clear and proper. Where your from?”

The above quote is true. I wish to God I were kidding.

I wanted to say “well, I like to be heard and understood, so you know, it kind of comes with the territory.”

But instead I just smiled and laughed and tossed my head to the side the way you do when you want to politely move on from the subject at hand.

For some unholy reason, we exchanged business cards. He said he was a comedian working on a documentary and might need writers, so I gave in.

Then, the next day, I got this call: (translations are in parentheses)

Him: Hey,  yo, it’s R— from last night.

TOE: Hi.

Him: What’s up?

TOE: I’m finishing up work, about to head out.

Him: That’s cool. So what’s going on?

TOE: Nothing much. (Didn’t I just answer this?)

Him: Okay, cool….

(beat)

TOE: So, you called?

Him: Yeah, I’ve got a show tonight. Wondered if you wanted to go to it?”

(Here’s where I think “Did we not establish last night that maybe Oreo and “why you talk so proper guy” might not be hang out buddies?” But instead, I decide to just re-emphasize my Oreoness and let him do the math.)

TOE: I can’t tonight. I’m going to a friend’s show.

Him: What kind of show?

TOE: (he’ll get it now!) It’s a Victorian Synthpunk bank with some Steampunk belly dancing.

The guys dress like this at these shows. I somehow doubt "you talk proper" guy has goggles. (Thank you Angelus-Knight for the photo!)

Him: Ohhhh

(Whew! Dodged that–)

Him: What about tomorrow night?

TOE: I’ve got a gin tasting.

(okay, surely now he’ll–)

Him: Saturday?

TOE: Swing dancing.

(are you effing kidd–)

Him: Sunday?

TOE: Renaissance Faire.

Him: Hmm. Okay. Well, maybe I’ll just send you these sketches and see what you think.

TOE: Sounds good!

It’s nice to see that following the rules and sounding Oreo distress calls does work, even if it takes more time than it should.

What about you? How do you politely (or impolitely) decline invitations? Let us know in the comments!

Also, while I’m glad people are still having the “why do you talk so white” conversation–because it’s pretty much the basis for two years of blogging–But seriously? We’re still having the “why do you talk so white” conversation? I mean c’mon, help me up my game! Talking white is like Oreo skill #1. Give me a challenge, people!

*****************************

For Mor-eo Oreo: Follow The Oreo Experience on Twitter (@oreoexperience)
Leave a comment here or at any of the above and let us know what you think!

Cooking. Lessons.

Went to Trader Joe’s Friday night to pick up the usual weekend fare. Was running low on some basics, so had to make an emergency run for some leeks, fennel and cumin.

You do not want to see me without my cumin.

I had an unusual amount of free time Saturday morning, and I was determined to do something healthy with it. So I decided to cook.

And as I looked at all my fresh food stuffs, I remembered: I am really terrible at cooking.

Like very terrible.

Like the scenes in movies where everyone smiles, then gives the food to the dog terrible.

Or like this coffee ad.

Bad coffee? Yup. Totally grounds for divorce. (had to)

You would think it would be relatively easy to at least be passable at cooking. I mean, there are these nifty things called recipes that are made of detailed instructions on how to make yummy food in a yummy way.

But I am not terrible at cooking because I cannot read and/or follow these directions. I am terrible at cooking because I would rather not read and/or follow these directions.

When the recipe says something like “Cook at 350 degrees for 45 minutes,” I can’t help but think: “Why not cook at 500 degrees for like 25 minutes?”

Unless the objective is to summon five fire engines and 10 men, that 500 degrees business rarely works.

If it says: “simmer for 10 minutes,” I say “why not boil for 2?” And when the water’s taking too long to come to said boil, I think: “Hmmm, salt makes water boil faster, so what if this doesn’t call for a brine?”

If I were to bring this up with a professional, I imagine that they would tell me it had something to do with a rarely confessed reticence to follow very strict rules. As discussed earlier, my home was riddled with very strict rules and though I followed them to the letter, the bruises that would show up on my arms let me know that I had not followed them closely enough.

So now, instead of say working through these issues, I set up rules for myself, then break them in small and worthless ways ostensibly so I can forgive myself to the degree I was unforgiven before. I promise myself I’ll manage the TMJ pain that shoots up half of my face most days by wearing this mouth guard that I’ve put on my nightstand. Then I put my nightstand just too far away from the bed for it to be convenient to reach over to before I fall asleep. I mean, I’m just soooo comfortable where I am,  and the cats are all settled, I’d hate to disturb them by rolling over.

I want to stress out less, so I tell myself that I will leave at a time that will allow me to reach my destination a few minutes early. Then I procrastinate and putter around so that I leave 15 minutes late for everything. But it’s LA, and there’s the 405 to blame…even if I never go over the hill.

I’d love an awesome relationship, so I make my list of healthy non-negotiables when it comes to dating and then I throw them right out the window. I mean, he was super funny and complimented my vocabulary! Who needs a guy with a job…or self esteem?

I wanted to say something about how Romeo Montague didn't have a job. So I googled "Romeo" and mostly pictures of this dude came up.

Cooking is much the same way. I want the pretty, yummy food thing—this morning in particular, I want sweet potato ginger spoon bread. But there must be another way of getting it than following these little rules, right? I mean, I’ve already got out the cup measure, do I really need the half-cup measure, too. It’s all the way on the other side of the room.

To be fair, straying from my own rules has brought me huge benefits. I never would have discovered how amazingly relaxing the four-jet shower at the spa after the deep tissue massage could be were I not looking for alternate TMJ cures. That massage was expensive, but in terms of restorative power, it was priceless.

I have discovered the joys of taco trucks because  leaving 15 minutes late made me 45 minutes late to the birthday party and  I missed out on the food.

And because my romantic choices are messy at best, I have learned how awesome front row seats at big musicals can be, had a million amazing conversations on balconies, tasted tequila that was better than I thought tequila could be, been proud and inspired because of a few jokes, slept in the most comfortable bed I’ve ever known, more deeply appreciated Bukowski, discovered I have dimples, found boundaries, felt that amazing white fire and ice all needles feeling, learned to like wine, figured out how to wear dresses, heard beautiful music and spent a storybook Christmas in Austria.

Of course, there’s the other side. The side that makes me wonder if the rules aren’t better. Christmas in Austria was stunning; but once we got home, all the problems that I suspected at the beginning were still there, and now there’s a great deal of paperwork where love once was.

I hope that there is something between the rules and personal anarchy. And perhaps that’s what my tiny rebellions are about. Finding that place where there’s give and take to make mistakes. But still a standard to strive for and a soft place to land when you miss.

Right this moment, however, I’m hoping that my spoon bread turns out okay even though I used too many potatoes and got cornbread mix instead of plain cornmeal. There’s probably too much water in it (since the recipe didn’t call for water in the first place), I cooked it in a muffin tin instead of a loaf pan and I forgot the ginger all together. Pretty par for the course for a day in the kitchen with TOE.

I especially hope this thing turns out okay because my roommates are all in the kitchen and I can only be so delightfully self-deprecating at 8:30 a.m. on a Saturday.

Moment of truth arrives. I pull it out and my spoon bread muffins and see my creation. They are delicious, fluffy and beautifully golden.

*******

For Mor-eo Oreo: Follow The Oreo Experience on Twitter (@oreoexperience)
Leave a comment here or at any of the above and let us know what you think!

Late Night Safety Lesson

I was out last night and had one of those experiences where you think: “Ohhhh, this is why I shouldn’t traipse around places at night by myself without a whistle or gun or something.”

Or maybe my own personal Adjustment Bureau

I was just walking and these four kids with their hats the the back and their baggy pants and swagger and teardrop tattoos and graffiti they were spraying on rocks came walking towards me. I’m pretty athletic, so I thought I could take them in a pinch. But I also thought: “This is why I came on a hike tonight. I did not come to the top of Mount Hollywood to run into people, much less thuggy people. There is a pretty sheer drop off, if they wanted to, I could never be found again.”

Moustache tattoos: Still says "grown up" but in a less murdery way.

Then I thought…wait, why are these kids on a hike? And I imagined their conversation  having gone something like this…

KID 1: Yo, what’re we gon’ do today?

KID2: I don’t know dude, tag that liquor store?

KID3: Sell some fake IDs?

KID4: Uhh, maybe visit some endangered species in their natural habitats and see if there’s anything the collective can do to make the environment a little better for everyone?

KID1: Yo! Who said that? That shit about nature. Special K, was that you?

KID4: Whatever, man.

KID1: Cuz I like the way you think. I just got a new Nalgene bottle and needed a place to use it!

KID2: Dude! Did you got to REI? Man you shoulda brought me, I got a Groupon for that shit!

And then I laughed. Out loud. While I was walking by myself. And wondered that in that moment, with me throwing my head back and grinning at no one, which one of us a third party would rather avoid. I kinda think it’s a tie.

****

For Mor-eo Oreo: Follow The Oreo Experience on Twitter (@oreoexperience)
Leave a comment here or at any of the above and let us know what you think!

Deep Tan or Just Too Dark: How to Tell if Your Conversation Partner is Safe

As we know, per the Oreo code, it is imperative to limit conversations with other of colors. If you’re having a private chat, you risk talking about pertinent issues of race and sounding/feeling like a regular black person; and if you’re in public, you risk everyone assuming you’re talking about pertinent issues of race and thinking you’re an RBP.

But sometimes, black people have blonde hair and white people have tans.

...or terrible stylists

So, at times it can sometimes be hard to tell if that swarthy skier is of color or just southern European.

PS. if they use the word “swarthy” in casual convo, you’re probably safe.

This weekend, I ran into exactly this problem!

Things started off well. I went to mass. At an episcopal church. In Beverly Hills. My chances of running into an RBP were slim to none.

Did any of colors make it on to this show?

But then at the parish-sponsored mimosa brunch a struck up a conversation with a guy who was…probably white. But per his skin tone, could definitely be cast to play any number of innocuous ethnic characters on say Lost or Fringe. If you had told me he was Middle Eastern, Indian or Mexican, I would have believed you.

I had to know if I was in danger. So I employed these tricks to suss out the situation.

1. Verify name. Now that we mostly facebook instead of having conversations with people, asking someone for their full name is par for the course. If the accompanying last name ends in “–artinez” or “–mbutu” better cut that convo short and look for the nearest van Beveren or Lundegaard in the room.

2. Mention your travels and see if they react accordingly. Make sure you clarify the Oreoness of said travels. For example. NEVER say “I was in Africa this summer.” Yikes! What, were you checking out the homeland?? No, it’s “I was researching 5-star accommodations in Zimbabwe for a piece I’m writing for Travel + Leisure…” or “I was scouting for Arabian horses in South America…” If they react with familiarity to the locale, abort!

3. Ask someone else. Excuse yourself to the bathroom and on your way there or back, ask someone else in the room if they know where so-and-so is from. They’ll know. Why not just ask the person yourself, you ask? Well, that’s just impolite.

*Caution! You could be talking with a well-studied Oreo, Coconut or Phillipino Twinkie. So they may have all the right answers and still be technically of color. In that case, refer to these rules for how to conduct a convo with one of your own kind.

And if they turn out to be white, but are still a little hiphoppier than you are, check out these tips.

Stuff Black People Care About

This weekend, MSNBC aired a show called “The Black Agenda”…and disappointingly enough, it wasn’t about a darkened page in Moleskine notebook.

What? It's black and it lists the topics up for discussion. You can see how I was confused.

I was all excited until I saw the commercial for the show and heard:

“MSNBC examines the issues and policies that impact African Americans.”

I was worried. I certainly look like a black American. Was this show going to bring up stuff that I care about and thus pigeonhole me into the space I’ve tried so long to escape?

Here’s what MSNBC (with obligatory black guru Al Sharpton) said black people care about: Employment, Healthcare and Housing… you know, stuff that’s WAAAAAAAY different than anything anyone else in the U.S. cares about.

No, there aren't any other of color pundits available for news magazines. Why do you ask?

And it all added up to more evidence that I’m not *really* black.  Because though I care about the above, that’s certainly not where my list stops. To the best of my knowledge ALL issues and policies affect me.

Education reform affects not only how my children grow up; but also the kind of labor force I will need to rely on as kids get out of school and consider college. Education issues affect how well-trained the next generations of doctors, social workers, writers, astronauts, chemists, landscapers, architects, day care workers, insurance professionals, car manufacturers and audio engineers are.

Health care affects how the people I care about will be able to take care of themselves. It affects how well those doctors, social workers, writers, astronauts, chemists, landscapers, architects, day care workers, insurance professionals, car manufacturers and audio engineers are able to do their jobs.

Prison reform affects how safe I am…not only from truly violent, uncaring criminals. But from people who might not have been the best kids in town, but who have been damaged by a system that tends to punish rather than rehab.

Reproduction rights affect my relationship to the world as a woman, women’s relationship to men, men’s relationships to each other.

Military spending affects how my friends kids’ who are fighting overseas will be able to protect themselves and the country.

Estate and business taxes affect how my boss will view my job in years to come.

Environmental policies affect how much I can enjoy the world around me.

Marriage equality affects not only how my friends are able to express their love for each other, but how America decides it willing to care for or shit on other “others” like myself.

But according to MSNBC, blacks just aren’t that into those things. And those things don’t seem to affect blacks.  So….. by my count, still an Oreo!

Yup!

Also, by continuing to trot out the same pundits for the black community, it really does emphasize the fact that blacks are all the same and march to the exact beat of the exact same leader. Which is nice for me, because all I have to do is say something simple in conversation like “I’m not really a Sharpton fan,” and people get that my pigmentation just might be a fluke or an overzealous tan.

Sharpton actually said something that was helpful. He mentioned that the continued disparities between blacks and whites hurts everyone. But this lovely soundbite was encased in a show titled “The Black Agenda,” which is just not going to draw the audience that needs to hear that….He also made a rhyme about a bacon and egg sandwich that I could have done without.

And finally, thank goodness major media outlets continue to divide people this way. If they didn’t run shows like “The Black Agenda,” how would I stand out. I would no longer risk being seen as a black person. I’d just be a person. And I have spent WAY too much money on relaxers to be just like everyone else. 🙂

Oreos A- Z: D is for…

We all know the basic concept of the Oreo – someone who’s black on the outside, but white on the inside.  What you may not know is that there really are a lot of intricacies involved in becoming, being and living a fulfilling life as an Oreo. The bi-weekly feature, “Oreos A – Z” will help keep you up to date and on your best Oreo behaviour.

D is for Don Draper
Oreos love Mad Men
Cuz sexy suits, and hot, repressed white dudes
Were so popular back then.

In a fantastic Oreo move, I was recently in a debate, where I was arguing heavily for the fact that Mad Men simply cannot have prominent characters of color on the show. It simply wasn’t done at that time. You know how like in movies set in the present there are no black people in say  New York City.

What say you? Obviously, there are some limitations with period pieces. But why can Shakespeare get away with it?

And Denzel gets the fancy cuffs, too! Much Ado About Nothing? More like Much Ado About Rrrrarrrr!

Why does it make more sense to filmmakers that a black guy can be the politically powerful Don Pedro, but not say a regular Joe in a movie about wizards or vampires or being cursed by an Olson twin to have a creepy tattoo cover your whole face? Do you think non-traditional casting takes from or adds to the cinematic experience? Would Sex in the City have been ruined if one of those girls was brown in some way? Wow, was Sex in the City really my go to film for that question. Weird!

For more Oreo: A-Z Click here!

****

For Mor-eo Oreo: Follow The Oreo Experience on Twitter (@oreoexperience)
Leave a comment here or at any of the above and let us know what you think!

Conversations with Whitepal – Blind(ish) Date

OreoExperience and WhitePal facebook chat about their plans for the evening.

WhitePal: So I’ll be at the bar at 7?

I'll be waiting at the bar, with a single white rose and a little chip on my shoulder.

OreoExperience: Bar = Birds?

WP: Yup

OE: Great, I’ll be there, too.

WP: How shall I know it’s you?

OE: yellow flower? red handkerchief? oh, and I’ll probably be the only black person there.

WP: That’s probably true….We could always go to Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles–it’s just up the street and then you can be the only white person there.

(beat)

OE: I’m putting this on the blog.

WP: Really?

…Yup, this just got meta, y’all.

This is actually one of my favorite things to bring up the first time I’m meeting someone new. Especially before facebook, when I would get to know someone–usually because of work–over the phone and we’d eventually decide to meet up for coffee or something. We’d make plans and they’d say something like “Okay, well I have short brown hair and I’m wearing jeans and green button down shirt.”

I would pause and say “I’m black.”

“OH!! Okay, okay, sorry…right on.” They’d say something like that. I’m assuming the ‘sorry’ was not them apologizing for me being black, but rather for feeling like they made me mention it. I, however, accepted it for the former and not the latter.

We did not go to Roscoe’s this weekend, but click here to see what happened the last time I did. Short story: They did not recognize my Oreoness. 😦

******

For Mor-eo Oreo: Follow The Oreo Experience on Twitter (@oreoexperience)
Leave a comment here or at any of the above and let us know what you think!