Parental Guidance Suggested

Some people have all the luck, in which they never experience or understand a desire to have what constitutes in society as a “normal” life.

They grow up in loving homes — not necessarily nuclear ones — with families that support them and teach them valuable life lessons to prepare them to be thriving and successful adults in society. They live life fearlessly and ready to take on the world because they were told throughout their lives that they could do and be anything they wanted to be. Their complaints vary from having the option of two family homes and not getting what they wanted for Christmas. Or something of that nature.

But then, there are the other people… the ones whose innocence and youth were lost very early in life through various methods ranging emotional, physical and sexual abuse, abandonment and just overall circumstances. They grew up afraid to speak their minds and hearts, mistrusting of adults — especially whichever gender caused the most trauma — and resentful or very angry with anyone they felt had a better deal. They have difficulties in relationships friendly and romantic, and often hurt people both intentionally in retaliation or unintentionally through subconsciousness.

Unfortunately, if the media reports and case studies are correct, there are a lot of the latter in the world. As scary as the reality of abuse cases are, scarier still are the ones that never see the light of day. These days the commonality of people (many high-profile) revealing their ordeals have sparked more discussions and openness about the subject, which allows the possibility of healing and coming from a place of despair, to one of hope. But the truth is these people function in our society and in one form or another, their demons affect how they do so. Our understanding, or lack thereof, can sometimes put us in uncomfortable and presumably unfair life or death situations.

Why am I going down this slippery and awkward slope… again?

Yesterday, I read a story about a father in Texas who discovered someone sexually assaulting his four year-old daughter and punched him continuously in the head until he died. As tragic as the death of someone by the hands of another may be, shamefully in retrospect, the emotion that came over me was anything but grief.

My first thought was that the father should not be charged with a crime. My second thought was about what that little girl is going to have to endure emotionally. Surprisingly, my third thought was that I envied her future.

For the rest of her life, that little girl will always know that her dad literally killed someone to protect her. He will most likely never let her out of his sight for the rest of his life. She will never have to live with a soul-crushing secret, or believe that somehow she was responsible for what happened to her, because her family will give her all the support she needs to be a strong, confident woman.

When people become parents, they sometimes forget there’s more to having a child than feeding, changing and clothing them. They’re not accessories to be paraded like the latest “It” bag, and you can’t give them away if you grow tired or bored with maintaining them. Some people have children for many reasons that don’t include the most important reason: having a legacy.

Adults forget that children are the ones who build on the foundations we create. When we break everything in their paths, they go through life thinking everything should be broken. When we neglect them, they neglect others — and worse — seek the acceptance of those who don’t have their best interests at heart. When we create entertainment such as music, movies, books and video games that glorify sex and violence, they embrace them in place of love and compassion. When we speak and act disrespectfully to and around them, they replicate the same behavior. Everything we do impacts their futures… and ours.

But I’m no expert.

My own story is not a new one, so I don’t need to elaborate. But when one has spent the last six-plus years in long-term relationships with men so similar to her absentee father that she could only tell them apart physically… you can gauge someone dropped the ball during my formative years. With that, I’m taking a much-needed break from it all for a while to re-draft that blueprint.

You don’t need to be a parent to determine the future of a child, but it helps to be a parent to your child for the sake of their future. This especially rings true now that we can no longer rely on teachers, nor the church — or even our communities — to protect them.

Perhaps the moral of the story is if you choose to bring a child into this world, be prepared to have a watchful eye, impeccable time management skills, the willingness to sacrifice some of your life’s comforts for them… and potentially take a life for them.

Only the last one I don’t advocate, but if the “stand your ground” law can enable psychotic provocateurs to murder innocent people, one would think exceptions can be made for the most innocent of all.

Something Old…

Every now and then, something that looks lovely on the outside can be a major pain in the ass to hold on to.

My grandmother, an elegant lady with a mind as sharp as her tongue, had an appreciation for beautiful things. One of those things happened to be a sterling silver tea set. Like her name, Elizabeth, the set is fit for a queen.

How it ended up in my possession is anyone’s guess. That an item fitting a lady of the manor came to be with an urban misfit in a rental continues to baffle my mind. (Maybe my Anglophilia was drawn to it.) Don’t get me wrong, I love and appreciate nice things, but if I have to pay for it, it stays in the store!

When my father bestowed it on me, he did so because everything else was about to be lost, and of all the grandchildren, our personalities were the most similar. Like her, I’m headstrong, quick-witted and tempered, and oddly drawn to men with good intentions but very bad habits.

I’m also like her in a sense that she too never took to cleaning the damn thing. My silver polishing experience started out impressively but ended in an epic fail. My plantation days would have been numbered. It was apparently a chore best reserved for my Uncle John, her younger brother who bore a striking resemblance to Ron Isley.

In any case, here I sit with the only family heirloom in existence, and I couldn’t be more ambivalent about it. The memories that are conjured by it aren’t as warm and sentimental as they are cold and distant. Where most grandmothers teach their granddaughters essential domestic skills and share stories about family history, mine forced me to watch soap operas and had my hair relaxed one summer because she refused to deal with combing it. Up until I attempted cleaning it, I’d never in my 30-plus years touched the set, or even seen it uncovered by plastic.

To me, the set is a symbol of all the things that hurt me about my upbringing. It signifies a childhood filled with isolation and experiences that ended it too quickly. It reminds me of a time when the people I looked to for love and stability let me down in such a monumental way that the scars haven’t truly healed decades later. I could say it made me stronger and more self-reliant, but that’s just BS speak for someone groomed for a very lonely existence.

For some, antiques are fascinating and exquisite pieces of history that give a home flair. Most people proudly display them somewhere in anticipation of passing along a tale of family triumphs and tragedies.

Then there are folks like me, who see them as something best kept in museums or homes that have no connection to its true history… The better to create their own stories and memories. I personally would prefer reminiscing about a time I went to a market in a faraway land and picked up a vintage mirror than recall the day some drunken relative nearly walked into it. But that’s just me.

Not since Alice’s trip to Wonderland has a tea set been immersed in such dramatic mental dialogue. That a thing of beauty, preserved for decades, could be both a strange symbol of endurance and a spacial and emotional burden — is perplexing.

Suddenly, the thought of having a cup of tea just stressed me the hell out.

Apples and Oranges

Most days, I love being a New Yorker. What’s not to love about a city that offers so much in culture, experiences and various personalities?

Today, however, it blows… right through my closed window, which sits next to the Hudson River. On a perfect Spring day or a warm Summer night, the breeze is my friend and savior. Tonight, it has conspired with the schizophrenic radiator in my room to keep me addicted to Booster C vitamins for the rest of Winter. With temperatures in the teens, the big apple is now what clever newspaper caption writers (whose job I semi covet) call the “frozen apple”, and I’m not loving it. Give me the “orange state” of Florida, please.

Sitting here, fully clothed and huddled up in sweats and two layers of socks and sneakers… my mind wanders wistfully to places like Jamaica, Bermuda and Miami — where I not only had the time of my life, but I was significantly warmer (although not by much in Bermuda). Just thinking about South Beach and the ocean waves cooling off the hot sand that I wish was running through my toes instead of this shooting pain that feels like frost bite.

But as much as I’d prefer the warmth of the sun and sand, this brutally cold city has my heart. It’s where I can get pizza, Thai, Caribbean, and sushi within blocks of each other. It’s where I’ve checked out the Alexander McQueen exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the upper east side, and a local homegrown artist exhibition at the awesome Apt 78 Lounge in the upper upper west side neighborhood of Inwood in the same day. It’s where I meet and connect with people who own multiple homes and use “Summer” as a verb, in addition to those who are just getting by in their rentals and looking forward to Summer the season so they can hit Coney Island. It’s where I can converse comfortably with hedge fund executives, marketing and media wizards and unemployed folks taking advantage of the free wi-fi in the coffee shops and libraries. It’s where I can watch the majestic dancers of Alvin Ailey and Ronald K. Brown’s Evidence troupes, and then see young kids with moves defying gravity on the subway ride home.

Physically, I feel the bitter chill, but the thought of New York always warms my heart.

When I think of Florida, I think of Alligators, and unless I’ve decided to become a cobbler for the pimp industry — there’s just no reason for me to be near them.

One Life To Live: In Celebration and Memoriam

It’s only Wednesday morning, and yet the week has already been loaded with life lessons.

When I began this blog, I made a personal declaration to be more open to life and all that it has to offer. While there’s still more to accomplish, the fact that I’ve barely had a moment to write about the many amazing things that have occurred since making that promise to myself is an indication I’m on the right track.

But in the past four days, four people have affected me in four different ways — each inspiring in their own way… three of which in passing and one in living. Their contributions to society perhaps only known to the people in their respective “bubbles”, they’ve given me numerous shots of perspective in such a small space of time.

The first life is that of Andy Rooney, who spent decades sharing his views of the world every Sunday night on “60 Minutes”. At 92, he only retired last month because his life and the news were so intertwined that he couldn’t have one without the other. As someone who’s passionate about writing from the heart about… well… anything, it was an eye-opening revelation to learn that Rooney pioneered that practice which has now become a popular staple for news programs. His honest, humorous, and sometimes provocative commentary changed the way millions of people saw things as complicated as politics and as simple as household products. In his passing, I’ve learned not only to keep speaking from the heart, but also that I should’ve watched that show more.

The next life is that of Joe Frazier, the legendary boxer who went by the name “Smokin’ Joe”. Although my appreciation for the sport of boxing only seriously developed over the past five years or so, I can recall as a kid listening to my dad and uncle having conversations with various characters at my grand uncle’s liquor store about boxing matches and would always hear Frazier’s name — usually in tandem with Muhammad Ali — amongst the list including George Foreman, and Sugar Ray Leonard. To these men, his greatness was evident in the power he displayed in the ring, but it would only be known to me later after watching the biopic, “Ali” with Will Smith, that Frazier’s greatness was also in his generosity; something that also contributed to his financial difficulties and was unfortunately payed back by Ali in public ridicule and disrespect. Frazier spent a good part of his life and fortune making sure other boxing hopefuls, including his own son and daughter, had an opportunity to realize their dreams as contenders. In his passing, I’ve learned about the perils of allowing yourself to be so consumed with bitterness about what others do and say about you, and what they have, that you fail to recognize and capitalize on your own value. Frazier reportedly regretted not using his fame the way Ali and Foreman had done so lucratively.

The third life is that of Dwight Errington Myers, who is best known by the name “Heavy D”. Most, if not all, of my high school and college life had been spent in some form or another listening to Heavy D and the Boys. When he came onto the scene, girls were swooning over the “overweight lover” — as he famously called himself, and it was clear in his lyrics that he was a lover… not a fighter. He was also a trendsetter: bringing sex appeal to big men before Biggie, making the switch from artist to executive before Jay-Z, and successfully navigating the acting game before LL Cool J, Common, Ice Cube, Ludacris, and everyone that’s turned up on a CBS network show within the last couple of years. As a recording artist, his songs were never explicit or misogynistic — he even had a song titled “Don’t Curse” — arguably solidifying his role as a gentleman in a genre made up of an increasing number of lotharios. His passing not only saddens me because it was sudden in nature, but it reminds me of a time when music used to make me carefree… and dance. And it reminds me that there are artists out there who won’t sell their soul for fame and are perfectly content doing work they believe in.

The fourth and final life is still in motion… quite literally. Though she’s not as famous as the other three people I’ve just spoken about, my friend Laura is still a pretty big deal. This past Sunday, she completed the New York City Marathon, and while it’s not her first time running, it was her first time running that much. When she’s not making strides to educate the millions of children in the New York City school system, or fundraising for Cancer and other causes… she runs. Whilst I cringe at the concept of running for anything other than the border of Taco Bell, this woman is plotting her next feat of superhuman proportions. In her living, I am simply inspired by her ability to find the strength to endure and complete such a physically grueling task. Of course, she’s also successfully navigated her way through several seasons of Carnival in Trinidad, so perhaps this is just further proof that this chick is pretty bad ass.

As extraordinarily unique as all of these people are, they share one universal truth: they’ve found success in being precisely who they are, and living and acting with such integrity that you can’t help but admire them for that… and even challenge yourself to take a page from their books.

In life, and in death, that’s the greatest lesson of all…