Capitalism is a scam.

I’m tired, y’all. I have to admit that Drumpf’s America is wearing on me. After 8 years under our glorious King Obama, I had bought into the notion that we were heading into the twilight of the worst inequality and that better days were ahead. Now I see that the ugliness of racism and bigotry is not going to go quietly, and is in fact still actively sowing seeds of hatred faster than we can dig them up.

I get why white people are mad. Truly, I do. I don’t get paid what I’m worth. The rent is too damn high and so are the utilities, the groceries, and the gas. I have an advanced degree and over $50,000 of student loan debt. I live in a six figure household and I don’t even have one full month’s income in my savings account.

But I don’t blame this on immigrants, queer people, or minorities because they haven’t done shit but try to survive and thrive in a system that is set up for everyone but the richest to fail. 22.5% of my income goes to federal taxes, while corporations pay a top rate of 21%. But given the wealth of deductions, setoffs, and loopholes, big businesses are only effectively taxed on profits, rather than gross income. I don’t get to deduct the gas for my commute, or the payments on my student loans. I can’t even deduct the cost of my bar license renewal and continuing education fees because they’re less than 2% of my income.

Love of money is the root of all evil, and that evil comes to bear in capitalism. The natural end of capitalism and a 100% free market isn’t equal pay for equal work, or even pay commensurate with productivity, skills, or experience. It’s slavery or at best, indentured servitude. Capitalism prizes profit above all else, which means that business will never, I mean NEVER, pay their debt to society. A safe workplace isn’t a natural result of capitalism because cutting corners to increase output makes more money than making sure the factory equipment isn’t going to cut someone’s hand off. After all, basic needs are priced so far above production cost that you’ll have no problem finding a replacement for your crippled employee because people have work or starve. Wage inequality hasn’t been this high since right before the New Deal, and before that, the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. Not to mention that at the rate global warming is progressing, parts of the world will start becoming uninhabitable within our lifetime. I don’t understand why people can’t, or won’t, see that we need to band together and fight for humanity as a whole. Capitalism is killing us and too many of us are refusing to fight back.

 

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Thoughtful 30

 

I’m 30, which is an age that comes with a lot of “supposed to be”. You’re supposed to be married, supposed to be starting a family, supposed to be at a high point in your care, supposed to be financially stable, blah, blah, blah. I am where I am, which is better than where I used to be but not where I want to end up and most days I’m 100% okay with that. I literally do not have the energy for anything that’s not about my family, my friends, or my job.

30 years old is when you start to recognize your mortality. You realize that you can’t take your health for granted. It could be something as big as having experienced the death of close family or friend. Or the simple fact that you can’t work out without stretching afterward and expect to be mobile the next day. Your body still bounces back from a night of drinking, or a week of eating nothing but junk food, but you feel it. It’s not automatic. I’ve really started to prioritize my health because I owe it to myself. And I feel it would be stupid of me to become a mother and try to raise a whole human, without being consistent about the things that take care of me.  I’ve got a few years left to myself and I’m using them to become a better version of me, the me that I want to maintain into my golden years. Physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I want to vibrate higher.

People tell me, “You’re always so calm!” or “You always know what to do!”. Which is funny because it’s so far from the truth. I am less uptight and anxious than I used to be but the progress was hard fought, and there are days when I feel crazy. What grounds me? The knowledge that stress kills, so I try not to work myself up over nothing. As for the rest of it, I do my research, ask questions, and then make a decision.  There’s no way to completely avoid making a mistake ever, and most mistakes, if made in good faith, are not unfixable. You can’t let the fear of getting it wrong 5% of the time paralyze you into never doing anything, or constantly apologizing for your decisions ahead of time. It’s inefficient and annoying as f*ck.

To close this out, I experienced a stumbling block just this week that would have sent 25 year old me into a tailspin. I got passed over for a lateral promotion that would have made me permanent at my job rather than staying on contract. And I didn’t care. I was truly at peace, and even happy for the people who got it. God has never let me down, so I know he has something better for me. Even if it’s me finally going out on my own as as solo practitioner (something else I realized will happen eventually, because I’m just not built to be a worker bee forever. I have too many strong opinions on how I could run a business better!). Not once in my life have I had to beg, borrow, or steal in order to take care of my basic, essential needs. Everything else I can live without. I trust that there will be a day when I’m rich (by my standards), and will be able to comfortably do most of the things I want. That day won’t come any faster by spending these building years envious of others, or upset that my blessings aren’t coming faster. So I will wait, gratefully.

Money Problems

I have a money problem.

Not in the traditional sense, though. I have some credit card debt but nothing that is making me eat ramen noodles or contemplate filing bankruptcy. I have student loan payments, but as long as I follow my monthly budget I can make them without sacrificing all the joy in my life. Really, what I have is a problem with thinking I won’t have enough money.

Granted, you can pick up any newspaper and read about the economic factors that are causing my generation to delay marriage, children, and home ownership. But as far as millenials go, I’m par for the course and on track to meet my financial goals–albeit not as soon as I want to.

I grew up in a household where money was tight. My parents did the best they could, and taught me from their mistakes. But being a natural worrywart, money was something I obsessed over. I hoarded my allowance and gift cards to buy brand name sneakers, and jeans on clearance from Aeropostale (yes, that brand was hot back in my day lol). In high school I decided to be a lawyer because I thought it was a profession that would allow me to help people without being broke.

Christians subscribe to the belief that God will keep testing you until you pass the test. I’ve come to the realization that money is mine. I’ve never been evicted, never missed a payment, never had a creditor call my phone. I’m not a superstar, but on balance, I’m good with money. I put aside a portion of my check each month into savings and retirement. Sure, I can’t spend $5,000 on a vacation tomorrow and I can’t buy all the things I want but that’s life. No matter how much money you have, you get used to it and there will be something you can’t afford.

In the meantime, I’m learning to sit in the discomfort of “but why can’t I have it” and practice gratitude for all the things I do have.

Not All Nerds. . . Just You

Last weekend, actor/comedian Donald Glover, aka musical artist Childish Gambino, headlined Saturday Night Live. He also released a brand new single and music video, “This Is America”. I don’t know if he just cemented his relevance at the right time, or people felt just that strongly about seeing him dance shirtless for five minutes, but he seems to have reignited the “black girls don’t like nerds” debate (which is just a subset of the “girls don’t like nerds” debate). The truth is, it’s not all nerds. It’s YOU.

I have strong feelings about this subject and I consider myself an expert. I’ve been a nerd my whole life and I went to college at Georgia Tech, arguably one of the nerdiest schools in the country. Half of my family and 90% of my friends are nerds. I know plenty of nerds with thriving love lives, and it oftentimes boils down to three things.

  1. What’s wrong being confident?

    It’s true that, on balance, school age nerds aren’t getting checked for like that. But the popular kids were maybe 10-20% of the class and everybody else was just there. I’m not here for a grown ass man complaining about how the head cheerleader laughed at the Valentine’s card he gave her in th grade. GET OVER IT! Sure, I was bullied in middle school. And back in high school I got curved by a couple of nerds too. But I didn’t attribute any one guy’s rejection as an indictment of my lifelong undateability. Stop letting other people determine your self-esteem!

2. Stay in your lane

I don’t care to find the episode, but the tv show Friends actually had a good theory on what scientists call “assortative mating”. That is, most relationships occur between people who are more similar than not. Friends‘ take was that if you rate the entire population on a scale of 1-10, you can only successfully date within two numbers of your number. So if you’re a 6, you probably can’t pull anyone above an 8, but you won’t be happy with anyone less than a 4.

 

Blerd = black nerd, ICYMI.

My whole life I’ve seen nerd guys strive for the sorority presidents, homecoming queens, and Instagram baddies of the world and ignore cute nerd girls that they hung out with every day.

3. Pretty Pays

Urkel was a solid 4, who somehow managed to get caught in a love triangle with two 8’s. But that’s TV, and when Urkel transformed into Stefan he was an 8 himself. Which brings me to my third point…attractiveness matters.

 

Now there are certain things–height, body type, facial features–that are hard or impossible to change. Life is a lottery and we don’t all win. But even if you are, objectively, less attractive than the average person, there are things you can do. Half of the allure of Stefan was confidence. He knew what he wanted, and went after it. He stood up straight and made eye contact. And I’m convinced that potion had some Sudafed in it too because Stefan wasn’t a mouth breather and didn’t speak in a nasally whine!

Now, it’s clear from the picture above that when he tried, Steve Urkel was actually a 7 not living up to his full potential. All those things men say about wanting a girl who “keeps herself up”–staying in shape, hair done, nails done, cute clothes–apply in reverse. You may not look like Idris Elba but you damn sure don’t have to look lia mess. Find some clothes that fit you properly and make sure they’re ironed. Get acquainted with Proactiv. Find a good smelling cologne or after shave, and don’t forget the deodorant. Keep your hair cut and groomed in a style that flatters your face (you’re not Killmonger or The Weeknd, so don’t try it).

So what’s the takeaway?

 

All that being said, the heart of this “nerds never get the girl” argument is entitlement. And it’s the same entitlement that forms the core of the extremist “incel” (involuntary celibate) community that has spawned several mass shooters. You are not entitled to anyone’s time or affection. Companionship and an active sex life are not rights. All you can do is put your bait out, and see what bites.

Soundbites

I haven’t posted in a while, but I’ve had some too-long-to-tweet thoughts knocking around my brain so I decided to put them here. A lot of this is old news but I assume you all come to this site for my sparkling commentary.

Mo’Nique and Netflix

So here’s the Cliff’s Notes, in case you missed it: Mo’nique got offered $500k to do a Netflix comedy special, and Netflix also asked her to do an audition for them. She asked Black people to boycott the site, and proceeded to cut up all over everywhere. Wanda Sykes revealed that Netflix only offered her $250k, and DeRay got $5 million.

Now I believe (and the data show) that the gender pay gap is a real thing, and it’s worse when you adjust for race. But I have questions, sis. Businesses always lowball their first offer and so I wonder if she made any attempt to negotiate? Regardless of having an Oscar, Mo’Nique hasn’t had any major credits since that Christmas movie a couple years ago. In the entertainment industry you’re only as relevant as your last success. It might have been a smarter move to negotiate them up to $2 million, knock it out of the park and come back asking for more when you have the receipts.

Robin Givhan and Journalistic Ethics

Pulitzer prize winning journalist Robin Givhan was invited to serve on a panel at the BET Leading Women Defined conference. There was an interview with (forever First Lady in my heart) Michelle Obama, where conference attendees were asked to put their phones away as the event was a “safe space”. Well, Robin wrote this article about the interview and was kicked out of the event a few hours after the piece was published. A detailed synopsis can be found here. At any rate, I have to side with the reporter. Unless you say something is off the record, it’s on the record. And a media outlet such as BET should know the protocol for dealing with journalists. The panel was being recorded in a room full of hundreds of women, in what world was that a private or confidential affair? This was an avoidable scandal.

On Cardi B & Tiffany Haddish

People seem to be really surprised by both of these women and I’m confused. Cardi B is the living embodiment of everything rappers have been praising in their songs for years. Tiffany Haddish is funny in the same raunchy way that Tracy Morgan and Eddie Murphy are, and funny sells. But folks seem to just be sooOoOoOO aMAzEd that they became successful being “regular”.

WHAT?!?

Dave Chappelle is regular. Chris Rock is regular. Lil Wayne is regular. Drake is regular (basic, even). Are we really surprised in 2018 that women can be atypical and also successful? Are there really that many grown ass women out here who feel like they can’t bloom in the fullness of their being? How incredibly sad. And I don’t mean that in a snarky way. I was bullied as a child, but in a way it was the gift that keeps on giving. I learned early on that I had to count on myself for my esteem and sense of worth. I learned that  you can fight people or placate them, make yourself invisible or try to fit in, and they will find something wrong no matter what you do. Might as well be yourself.

 

On Hairdressers

Every Black woman has a salon story. Getting our hair done is a time honored pastime. While the natural movement (and broke millennials) have caused a shift away from weekly wash & set appointments, it’s still a thriving industry for weaved and braided styles and hair color services.  But these new school hairdressers are something else. They’ll still overbook you, but now if you’re not in the chair at 11:58 for a 12:00 appointment, you’re hit with a salty text message informing you that if you arrive later than 12:15 you will forfeit your appointment and also, your $50 is nonrefundable. If you want a custom hair color, you get charged extra for the dye. If you want a weave or braids, you need to arrive at the salon with your hair freshly washed, dried, moisturized and detangled. My God, do I need to put in my own cornrows too??? A friend of mine said a hairdresser once asked her to bring her own shampoo, I kid you not! A scalp massage used to be part of the shampoo, now it’s a $15 upcharge. And getting your scalp greased (hands down the BEST part of the salon experience) is completely defunct.

On Thrifting

I use an app called Poshmark to resell items in my wardrobe that I’m done with, as well as final sale, nonrefundable items that just didn’t work out. I never expect to get back more than 50% of what I paid for an item. Americans generally prefer new stuff, so thrifting still has a stigma attached to it. Also, I don’t buy designer brands and they don’t make clothes like they used to. Still, I typically only sell things that look basically new. If it has stains or rips I just give it away, and I put in the effort to write detailed descriptions and take close up pictures in good lighting. And yet people still complain. I got a two-star rating this week for packaging.

B*tch, you bought a sweater for $12 and 20% of that is going to the app fee! Your sweater is getting folded into a flat rate priority box, and you will deal. If you want tissue paper, ribbon, a thank you note, and a perfume sample go buy a new sweater at full price!

The Book That Changed My Life

 

My battered copies of the books, purchased with my own allowance money from a used bookstore, once upon a time.

A Wrinkle In Time is  a strong contender for my favorite book ever. It was so influential in ways that I really did not realize until reflecting upon it. I don’t know that I’ve ever read any other book as many times. I loved the whole series so much as a kid. There are four other companion books, but A Wrinkle In Time stands out for many reasons. (Spoilers ahead)

The Murry family has many adventures, but this one is Meg’s. And Meg Murry was the first time I remember seeing myself in literature. As a weird (not quirky, weird) black girl growing up in the suburbs in the late 90s, I didn’t have a lot of role models. I came of age in the girl power era, but I was no Scary Spice. I was too young to model myself after Aaliyah, En Vogue, or any other R&B songstress. I couldn’t wear makeup, much less a midriff top! I wasn’t sassy like the black friends on various Disney and Nickelodeon shows. But Meg was me. She has her good qualities–super intelligent, compassionate, fiercely loyal to her family. But she was also stubborn, sarcastic, didn’t trust easily and grappled with moments of crippling self-doubt. Intellectually, she knows she is competent and has potential. Emotionally, she is unsure of her place in the world and her unpopularity matters more to her than she’ll ever admit. Whenever I was feeling down, her story would remind me that all the things people mocked me for were part of what made me strong.

Meg’s journey to self acceptance is why I always turned to this book whenever I needed comfort. Grade school was a bit hellish for me, and the book gave me reassurance that one day I’d leave behind the hell that was grade school, and make a meaningful life for myself.  I especially love that Meg gets a happy ending, not just here but in future books. She becomes a physicist and marries Calvin, and has kids of her own. And even though she’s happy, she’s still the same prickly old Meg.

The philosophy of this book is another reason why I love it. It seamlessly blends religious notions of good and evil with the reality of science and technology. The two coexist as a matter of fact. Whether they do so harmoniously is a function of how humanity uses them. This book was a turning point for me in my faith. I read it around the same time I got serious about church and decided to read the Bible all the way through for myself (and I did, except I copped out on Revelations because it was too scary). I was starting to ask questions about how the concepts I learned about in school–the Big Bang Theory, evolution, etc–should affect how I felt about Christian teachings. These books planted the idea that my faith and my belief in science were not contradictory or mutually exclusive. The message that science could take us to the ends of the universe but love remains the most powerful force was revolutionary to me, and also made perfect sense. Something about that just felt right in my spirit, and that has guided my spirituality ever since.

There is also a political message here. Evil perpetrates itself in a million different mundane ways. The cruelty of schoolchildren; the petty tyranny of an authority figure; an abusive parent; the idea that conformity is the same thing as equality. The second book in the series addresses the idea of wholeness within oneself, and establishing harmony within the universe that is your own body and cellular makeup. It’s really heady stuff, especially for  young people, but the beauty of these books is that they don’t talk down to you. They challenge you.

Is it a perfect book? Not by any means. But it spoke to me, and resonated with me, and the heart of this outweighed any criticisms I might make about style or technique. It was a life changer, and I can’t ask for anything more.

I just saw the Wrinkle In TIme movie, which inspired this whole post. As much as I love the book, I think it’s important to evaluate the movie on its own merits. I think it succeeds on all counts. It’s amazing by itself, and also a worthy successor to the book. Seeing a black girl play Meg onscreen was just wonderful. I felt some of the same magic that I felt during Black Panther because representation matters. Aside from that, Ava DuVernay really captured the magic and the spirit of the books. There were some omissions and changes compared to the book but nothing that affected the core plot. I laughed, I cried, I remembered the child I used to be. It’s been more than 10 years since I last read the books and I felt that same sense of wonder that I did on my very first reading. It was no small feat but Miss Ava knocked it out of the park! (Spoilers ahead, again)

However, I went into this movie with a little trepidation because the reviews were so mixed. A lot of people seem to think that this just doesn’t live up to the hype. I think a big part of it is that we are so used to big, splashy, apocaplyptic blockbusters. The stakes were much lower here. The real obstacle here is internal: Meg’s inability to love herself. Saving the world is just a side effect. In fact, if Meg fails, the world won’t end immediately. It’s just that evil will keep getting stronger on Earth until it takes over entirely. Ultimately, her win doesn’t even defeat Camazotz entirely. But it pushes him back and gives them time to fight another day.

Another part of the criticism is that Meg, as a character, is too flat and unexpressive. She’s a skeptic and a complainer. In short, she’s a problem child. But that’s the whole point! And it’s what I have always loved about her. Meg is a grouch but she saves the day anyway. Pretty much every other story insists that heroes be nice, damn near to the point of  sainthood. In some sense, you have to be the right kind of person who deserves to have a magical adventure. You can be an outcast, but you must always turn the other cheek (and never throw a basketball in someone’s face). If you’re awkward, it’s all in your head because actually you’re beautiful. I reject that. Sometimes you really are awkward and rude and ungrateful. But being imperfect doesn’t mean you’re undeserving of anything good.

In both the book and the movie, I appreciated that Meg was regular and had an attitude problem and hair that didn’t do what she wanted. I loved that even though she missed her father dearly, and knows she should be above high school drama, it still bothers her that she has no friends. She is a real person, and in the end she succeeds by embracing her flaws, not by becoming someone else. That’s a powerful message for kids everywhere, at any time.

If you haven’t gotten in on the goodness that is A Wrinkle In Time, what are you waiting for? Get on it!