Monday, February 26, 2007

My Mail is Still Celebrating Kwanza

It’s almost March and I’m still using the Kwanza postage stamps I bought at the post office last December. Somehow I miscalculated how many I needed to send out my Christmas, Holiday, Seasons Greetings cards.

It feels a little odd using stamps out of season, but I’m afraid if I hold onto them until this December, the post office will sneak in a rate hike. Of course I’d still be able to use them with a makeup stamp, but it just wouldn’t look right. My Mom uses penny stamps to make up the postage for first class stamps she’s had for 20 years. Letters from her have so many stamps on them they look like they’ve traveled over distance and time. That’s not quite the look I’m going for.

I didn’t specifically set out to buy Kwanza stamps, but by the time I finally decided to send out my cards, it’s all the post office had left. It was either Kwanza or Flag stamps. I’m not unpatriotic, but I wanted something a little more in keeping with the season.

Now the holidays have come and gone, and I worry what people think when they get something from me in the mail. Do they notice the postage? Does it make my correspondence look dated? Do they think I’m too cheap to buy a non-holiday stamp? They’d be right. I am too cheap to buy more stamps. I plan to use the ones I have until I run out, but I don’t want them thinking it.

Kwanza, while more main stream, is still a bit of mystery for most people. In the African American community it’s politically incorrect not to at least acknowledge Kwanza, but only the most Orthodox can accurately name the seven daily principles. I wonder if people in the general public see my out of season stamps and think, "Is it Kwanza? I thought that was in December. I guess it changes like Ramadan." And, in the drive to be culturally sensitive, start wishing people a Happy Kwanza.

I am concerned, but not enough to change my stamps. So, until I run out, I’ve still got the holiday spirit.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Bad Judgement?

Would You Purposely Wear Pumps in an Ice Storm?

Last week, in the worst ice storm the City has seen in 20 years, a TV news reporter spotted a woman trudging through the snow in a pair of pumps. Deeming this news worthy the reporter rushed over to ask the woman why?

I would have bet money that she was in New York on a business trip; the severe weather catching her unprepared. Not many people would think to pack a pair of boots. But I would have lost that bet. The woman told the reporter that she had passed the bar, the ceremony was today and she wanted to look her best. Apparently ‘best’ meant a pair of pumps despite near blizzard conditions.

My father, who also saw the news report said, "I’d never hire her to be my lawyer. She has poor judgement." He has a point. I don’t think the folks at The New York Bar Association would have thought any less of this woman if she showed up to her swearing in ceremony wearing a lovely pair of dress boots. But her choice of shoe sends a message: If she is undaunted by an act of God, opposing council won’t stand a chance.

Traversing city streets in high heels is challenging in the best weather. Street gratings, manhole covers and uneven sidewalks can turn a graceful strut into, at best, an undignified stumble, and at worst a broken leg. If this newly minted lawyer has the chutzpah and the fortitude to wear them in inclement weather, I want her on my team. Poor judgement wearing pumps in a snow storm? Only if they’re suede.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Love Means Never Saying I Told You So

Because Someday You'll be
Lamenting in Your Latte

What do you do when your friend is crying in her coffee over breaking up with a boyfriend you hated? Actually we all hated him: me, her other friends, her parents – who never really count in these matters – everybody. Everybody except her. Warts and all, she loved him and I guess that’s what love is all about, but this guy was one big wart.

For starters her boyfriend was too old for her, by over 15 years. I think you should keep it under a decade. To quote the late great Moms Mabley: "The only thing an old man can do for me is bring me a young one." In the long run, I wouldn’t want to end up looking like my boyfriend’s home attendant.

True there are folks who look good for their age or who just out and out lie, but a good pre dating question to ask is, "What was your favorite toy as a kid?" If you’re unfamiliar with that toy, no date. And it doesn’t count if you recognize the toy because your kid played with it. Mr. Potato Head should not be going out with Elmo.

I never met her boyfriend. I didn’t need to. My friend was my conduit and I could tell from her that the vibe just wasn’t right. She hid the relationship for a while, as if subconsciously even she knew it wouldn’t last. And what she did tell me didn’t sound great. He was still a little twisted up over his last relationship. ‘So you’re dating my beautiful, smart, funny and young friend on the rebound? Scoundrel! Cad! Scallywag!’ And the simplest of all, she didn’t smile when she talked about him. If the man in your life can’t bring you that simple joy, the joy in the telling of him, he has got to go.

As the story unfolded in between refills, he broke up with her because he wasn’t ready for a commitment. Gee, a single 37-year-old never-been-married-man, dating a co-ed not ready? What a shock.

She told me other little things about him that when gathered up and looked at in retrospect were not so little. They were glaring pop up warnings that she should have seen. Her friends saw, of course, but we couldn’t say. She wouldn’t have heard us. People in love go temporarily deaf. I suspect it’s the amped up blood flow coursing through your veins at mach 10. Also, good friends and smart parents know any talk against the significant other of the moment will only draw the couple closer together, assured that they are the reincarnation of "Romeo and Juliet" when they are really Martha and George of "Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf."

In addition to the deafness there is also a certain amount of insanity. Scientists have found that chemically, the brain looks the same in love as it does in mental illness. Scientific proof that you can be crazy in love. (Beyonce is a genius.) When the intoxication of love wears off, many of us have made the sobering declaration, if only to ourselves, "I must have been crazy to go out with him!" Yes. Yes, you were.

Having had my turn in the psych ward of love, what’s friend to do? Just listen of course. Remind her that she’s beautiful and fantastic, and someone better will come along. Don’t run down the loser ex too much, as a reconciliation might be on the horizon. But you can offer to help her make a Voodoo doll of him just in case. This is always good for a smile and perhaps a lovely Sunday afternoon art project if she takes you up on it. And, of course, never say I told you so unless you want to hear it said back to you when it’s your turn to cry in your coffee.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

* Food Shopping is Man's Work

Or at Least it Used to be in My House.

I haven’t set food inside a supermarket for over two years. I know how to cook, but my husband loves to cook. So by default this makes him the official family food shopper. Clearly I’ve been blessed, but nothing lasts forever.

My husband recently started a new job, where the hours are not as flexible as we’re used to; a big adjustment for all of us. Part of that adjustment is that I now have to do the food shopping. One can only order in Pizza and Chinese food but for so long.

Now lest you think I’m a complete pampered princess, I used to food shop for myself all the time before I got married, but I am woefully out of practice. I remembered to wear comfortable shoes. Only the most hard core divas wear pumps to market. What I didn’t remember was to dress warmly.

I get cold easily and supermarkets are chilly places. By aisle four (of 18) I was shivering and blowing on my hands to keep warm, pushing the shopping cart with my elbows. The other shoppers looked at me as if to say, "amateur." At this rate I knew I was never going to make it to the frozen food aisle. The Eggos, milk and Tater Tots would have to wait.

You’re not supposed to food shop when you’re hungry. I know that, but I had foolishly skipped lunch so I could hurry up and get the shopping done. So naturally by aisle eight I had convinced myself that, "Yeah, I could whip up a plate of homemade lasagna in 20 minutes. No problem."

So while I did have a shopping list, half the stuff in my cart wasn’t on the list; like the Frosted Cherrios. I’ve never had Frosted Cherrios, but I was confident they’d taste good, help me step down from my life long Frosted Flakes habit and make a great post lasagna dessert. They were also on sale for $1.99. So, I’m saving money, right?

I was just about done when I realized I hadn’t gotten cabbage. My husband had specifically asked for cabbage so, I couldn’t very well come home without it; or could I?

"Baby did you buy cabbage?"
"No, Sweetheart. They don’t make it anymore. I think the company went out of business."

I doubled back to the produce section, found the cabbage, but all the heads looked as though they’d been grown on steroids. I grabbed the smallest head I could find jammed it into produce bag and called it a day.

At the cash register I got a good dose of sticker shock when my groceries totaled over $100. Over $100 and I hadn’t even bought meat, dog food or tater tots. But the good the news was I spent enough money to win a free turkey. Thank god for the cabbage.

Getting the groceries into my car was interesting. While I paid for $100 worth food, it felt like I was carrying at least $200 worth. My inner feminist theorized that since a woman’s strength is in her legs and a man’s strength is in his arms, shouldn’t carrying and loading groceries be man’s work? Dangerous question that. Getting the groceries out of the car and into the house only deepened my belief in this theory.

All the groceries put away, tired and spent, I thought better of my lasagna plan and resigned myself to the easiest meal possible: a bowl of Frosted Cherrios. Tasty even without the milk I was too cold to buy.

When my husband came home from work, he thanked me profusely for doing the shopping. Yes, he is a sweetie. He opened the fridge to grab some water and said, "Whoa, what’s up with the big head of cabbage?"

"You asked me to buy cabbage and that’s the smallest head they had,"
I said.
"Why didn’t you just buy it in the bag?"

"Yeah, Baby. You can buy shredded cabbage in a bag, just like lettuce."

I didn’t like the sound of that. He was giving me information he thought I needed; Implying I’d be food shopping again. "Oh dear god, no. Please don’t make me go back there."
Thinking fast on my feet — and mind you fast doesn’t always mean smart — I said, "They don’t make the cabbage in the bag anymore, Baby. I think the company went out of business."

* Excerpt from Leighann's upcoming humor book, "Tales From the Lip."