Monday, April 30, 2007

The Sisterhood of the Tag Tuckers

If you harken back to the early nineties -- think Kriss Kross or TLC -- it was cool to let your clothing tags show. Those days are gone, and in the new millennium it's nobody's business if I hand wash or dry clean. Call me a perfectionist, but an exposed tag at the back of my shirt is as unsightly as my bra strap showing, a run in my stockings or a hanging slip. Tags are like belly buttons: an inny is better than an outty.

The problem is no matter how well put together you strive to be, a tag is easy to miss. You can't see or feel when it pops out, and even if you do you may not have the flexibility to reach it. I know I’m not the only one who’s pulled a muscle or two trying.

Thankfully there’s The Sisterhood of the Tag Tuckers. Our motto (like post 9/11 NYC Mass Transit) is "If you see something, say something." Whether I know a woman or not, if I see a tag sticking out of her shirt, I feel compelled to tuck it in. With a gentle touch on the shoulder and a whisper for her ears only, "Hey, your tag is out." I tuck it in, and score another victory for The Sisterhood.

If there’s a Sisterhood, is there a corresponding Brotherhood? Not exactly. Men don't really notice these things. And the ones who do tend to be very domesticated. A human male in captivity will only notice the tag of the woman who has claimed him. It’s safer for him that way. Noticing another woman’s tag means he may have been looking at her at little too closely. That's going to lead to an argument. It’s best he just notice his own woman's tag status.

And so in The Sisterhood we women rely on each other and are grateful for the tuck. I always get the knowing nod and smile that says, "Good looking out, thanks for having my back." Conversely, if another woman sees but doesn’t tuck, does it mean she’s not part of the Sisterhood? Not necessarily. It’s more likely that she just doesn't know. Tag tucking is not nature, it's nurture. The lessons of The Sisterhood, like anything else, begin at home.

My Mom taught me that a lady always wears the proper foundation garments: bra, camisole, slip, and nylons; control top if you need it. Growing up she used to have me stand in front of the window or the front door, and used the daylight to determine my outfit's opacity. If it was sheer enough to see through she'd say, "Go put on a slip, I can see your breakfast."

It took me years to realize that she didn’t mean that passers by could actually see my morning Fruit Loops. She meant that at a glance someone should see my outfit, not what’s under it. A lady must leave something to the imagination. But not everyone got this lesson. Every Summer I see women in beautiful dresses, and at the right angle -- with the sunlight streaming through -- everything from the continental to the full buffet is on display.

Although sometimes I’d like to, I don’t carry extra slips in my already too heavy handbag. Because my Mom I carry safety pins to secure an errant bra strap, nail polish to stop a run in my nylons, and a file to fix a ragged nail.

But you don’t have to be a walking convenience store to help a sister out. The simplest thing to do is each one, tuck one. I tuck your tag. You tuck some one else’s, and so on and so on. And thus, The Sisterhood grows. But if a stubborn tag just won’t stay put, a pair of scissors works wonders, too.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Spring Cleaning My Address Book

Confessions of an Address Book Pack Rat

Weighing in at over 4,000 personal and business contacts, my address book is officially out of control. It’s the electronic equivalent of the mafia: once you get in, you never get out. I’m reasonably friendly and outgoing, but I don't think it's humanly possible to personally know 4,004 people. In real space that’s a 37 pound Rolodex. One shouldn’t have a phone book the size of the phone book.

The size never bothered me until I bought a Black Berry. Synchronizing my computer address book with my Palm was quick and easy, but it takes an eternity on the Black Berry. I can go for a long European style lunch, come back and it’s still not done. Ironically, if I’m not there in the last 10 minutes of the process, it crashes my computer.

The fine folks at Research In Motion have assured me that they have no idea why this happens. It’s never happened before with any of their other customers. Yep, I'm special. One technician gently suggested that I switch from ACT to Outlook. Apparently all of Christendom uses Outlook, but I don't want the hassle of changing programs. That's a little drastic. I’m gonna try downsizing first.

A good place to start: closed stores, outdated business contacts and friends from grammar school. Can you really call someone a friend if you have to crack open a year book to remember what they look like? I have a very close personal friend who left the business three years ago to start a tree farm; or so I found out when I called last month. I guess I should have called more often; or taken the hint when my Christmas cards were returned "Addressee Unknown."

The easiest to delete are the closed businesses. Restaurants come and go in New York so quickly, I'm not sure why I bother inputting them in the first place, but I really loved Mr. Leo's. It was a wonderful upscale soul food restaurant in Chelsea that served the best honey dipped chicken I've ever had. Sorry, Mom. I have a rule against eating messy food in public. That means no hot wings, no ribs, no barbequed anything. Part of it is ettiquette, part of it is vanity. I was taught that proper ladies don't sit at the table and knaw on a bone like a famished lioness in the wild. Food stuck in your teeth and sauce on your cheek doesn't make a good impression on the first date or the 50th. But self consciousness went out the window when I had Mr. Leo's Honey Dipped Chicken. That was the quintessential meaning of finger licking good. And finger licking, by the way, is not necessarily horrible on a date, depending on what you have in mind for dessert.

But I digress.

I was told that Mr. Leo's went out of business when Mr. Leo himself was robbed and killed leaving the restaurant late one night. I don't know if this is true or if it's just an urban legend among restauranteurs who don't use a bank courier to handle the days receipts. For all I know there wasn't even a real Mr. Leo, just some guy named Otis who had a great honey dipped chicken recipe and a dream.

Another place that stayed in my address book long after it closed was Dosanko's. It was a great Japanese restaurant that boasted an amazing ginger salad dressing, and served a better than expected fried chicken. It wasn't honey dipped, but it was tasty. If Mr. Leo's was number one, then Dosanko's was number one A. Sorry, Mom.

Two things are evident: I like chicken, but chicken alone won't keep a restaurant a float. Or, more accurately: if I like the chicken, the restaurant is doomed. This would explain KFC's continued success.

There are moments when sifting through my address book is like skipping through a mind field. In trying to get rid of the dead weight, I've come across actual dead people like Mrs. Franklin, my sixth grade teacher. Mrs. Franklin was one of those teachers who cared. She loved teaching and she loved us, her occasionally raucous class of 28 eleven year olds. She was a petite woman with auburn hair and a penchant for losing her glasses. She had two pairs: one for seeing and one for reading. When either pair slipped to end of her nose and she looked at you from over the top of the frames, you knew you were in trouble. She was like your mom and the principal all rolled into one. I heard through the neighborhood grapevine that she had passed away, but I didn't have the heart to delete her name from my address book. It felt like I'd be deleting part of my childhood.

Worse though, is coming across people in my phone book who I’m not sure about. Dead? Not dead? You can’t exactly call up and say, “Hey? Are you dead? No? Just checking.” I could just send them a Christmas card and see if it gets returned, but that doesn't necessarily mean dead. It could just mean relocated tree farmer.

It’s also a bit creepy calling people you think are alive, only to find out they've died. That happened once. I called an old aquaintance just to say hi and catch up, but was told she had died a few months earlier in childbirth. I was sad, of course, but also confused. Women don't die in childbirth anymore do they? Had my phone call been routed through the "Twilight Zone" and into the middle ages?

Apparently The Grim Reaper has also been hard at work, whittling down my address book. Between the two of us I'm down to around 3,500. Five hundred businesses and people who were once important enough to enter into my address book have been deleted. My Black Berry still takes over an hour to sync, but at least I've gotten it to stop crashing my computer.

My next project will be tackling the size of my My Space. As of last week I offically have over 1,000 friends. Give or take one or two, that's 9,995 people who I don't personally know. I hope they’re okay.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Mid-Week Post: I Guess I Gotta Talk About Imus... Well, If I Must...

I'm not a women's college basketball fan. I have nothing against basketball in particular, but sports in general does not hold my interest. Whether it be men or women, college or pro. I just don't dig it.

I'm not a fan of Don Imus either. I have nothing against Imus personally, but from what I understand his show is on WFAN, a sports radio station, which I don't listen to on account of me not being a sports fan.

This week, two things that hold no interest for me are commanding the headlines and because this story involves other woman of color I'm expected to have an opinion. Actually most people assume they know what my opinion is. They envision me balancing a hectic schedule of firing off any angry emails and going to revival tent like protest rallies.

Well, for the record here's how I feel:

The Ladies of the Rutgers Basketball Team are not special. Over the years Don Imus has said nasty and inflammatory things about everybody. This is not news to his producers, the stations that carry his show, his fans or his sponsors. As a matter of fact the more outrageous the better; the better the ratings, the better the sales. Imus's callous character has made a lot of people, including himself a lot of money. For them to take the "high road" now is disingenuous. I am not fooled. These are probably the same people who in the past made money off Bob Grant and continue to support the likes of Howard Stern.

I am also amazed at how many people have inserted themselves in between the offender and the offendees. Should we not be asking and supporting whatever remedy the Ladies of the Rutgers Basketball Team want? I am leery of those who ask for tolerance, but give none; who preach forgiveness, but don't practice it. I think the Women of Rutgers are more than capable of speaking for themselves.

Yes, Don Imus made a big mistake. And clearly that mistake was not leaving the act of disrespecting Black Women to the professionals. Rap music, videos and culture have made misogyny into a multi-billion dollar industry. Although truth be told most videos seem to prefer permed hos; nappies need not apply. Maybe if Imus had crafted his ignorant comments into a track with a banging beat, no one would have noticed. All sins are forgiven if you can dance to it, right?

What is truly puzzling to me in all of this, is that it seems that Don Imus learned nothing from the Michael Richards episode. Perhaps now in their mutual unemployment, they’ll have time to commiserate.

But on the bright side, and yes there is one: This ugly episode has pushed Anna Nicole Smith's baby daddy drama off the front page; at least for a minute.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

All Wrapped Up In The Yellow Belt Blues

In martial arts, beginners wear white belts, the most advanced students wear black; the colors in the middle, however, are up for grabs. At my martial arts school the progression is: white, blue, yellow, green, red, brown, black. While it's great to keep your eyes on the prize of earning the coveted black belt, it's fun to enjoy the rainbow along the way.

Earning and receiving a new belt of any color is an achievement. It's a tangible acknowledgement of your dedication and a symbol of your increasing skill. My first major milestone was graduating from white to blue. Blue is a pretty color, all the more beautiful to me because it's not white. With my cute blue belt on, hand wraps to match, I felt like I was moving up in the world. I'm still no Bruce Lee, but then again, who is?

Martial arts is hard on the hands and hell on a manicure. So until we have national health care with subsidized spa priviledges, I do my best to guard against injury. I wear handwraps under my boxing gloves to protect my hands. If you've ever broken a finger or sprained your wrist then you know that the one-handed life style is a challenge conducive only to pirate-style swash buckling; but modern day pursuits like typing, eating, and driving are best done two handed.

Most of my fellow students don't wear hand wraps at all, far less bother matching them to their belt. It's not necessary to match, but why not learn to fight with fashion and flair. It works for Naomi Campbell.

I must confess, even with yellow hand wraps at the ready, I did not enjoy getting my yellow belt. At my previous martial arts school, yellow was the next color above white. I know every school is different, but getting a yellow belt at my new school after blue felt like a demotion.

At my old school I studied Aikido, which I believe is a very woman friendly form. It doesn't so much fight your attacker, as much as use their own energy against them. I loved it. I'd like to think I'd still be doing it if work and my ego hadn't gotten in the way.

At the time, I was travelling a lot. I missed so many classes that each time I went back it felt like I was starting from scratch. It became hard to see fellow classmates with more consistent training schedules advance far ahead of me. As they say in AA, compare and despair. Eventually I became too frustrated and embarrassed at my lack of progress. I stopped going when I was a yellow belt.

So at my new school, not only did a yellow belt seem like a step backwards, it reminded me that I was a quitter. It became the color to beat. And to make matters worse, yellow is not my best color. It does nothing for my skin. It was a happy day when I got my green belt. The curse of the yellow belt was broken. I never thought of green as being "my color" until one day my husband said it was pretty on me because it brought out the green in my eyes. Sold. Now I have enough green in my closet to get me kissed on Saint Patrick's Day; my green belt a pleasant addition.

Now I am working towards my next belt, very exciting since red has always been my favorite color. With hand wraps to match I'll look like a kick ass candy cane. Someday I'd like to go for my black belt. That goal requires uber dedication and fortitude, but with my yellow belt blues behind me, I’m inspired. Besides, not only is black the color of mastery, it'll look great with any color hand wraps.

Monday, April 2, 2007

I'm Sorry I'm Slim

They say you should never apologize for who you really are. But that's not true. As the nation becomes increasingly over weight I feel the need to apologize all the time because I’ve been slim my entire life.

I’ve never dieted. I’ve never purposely had low fat, no fat anything. I tried yogurt once. I had to have a milkshake immediately afterwards to cleanse my pallet and restore my faith in dairy products. I’ve never counted calories. Is it anything like counting sheep?

I was cast in a commercial for Lean Cuisine, the healthy frozen food dinners, and my friends were furious. "You skinny, Bitch!" they said with love. "You’ve never had to eat Lean Cuisine!" I know and I’m sorry.

I’ve never seriously belonged to a gym. Oh, I joined one, but it was a misguided attempt to be romantic. My husband goes to the gym so I thought I’d join and hang out with him, but my heart wasn’t in it. The gym, not my husband. He goes to work out. I go to chit chat. I guess we’ll stick to dinner and a movie.

I should have known better. I hated gym class in high school. I wasn’t very athletic, and thought sweating in public was not only undignified but impractical. If it took me an hour and a half to get ready for school in the morning, why did I only get five minutes after gym to shower, change and go to my next class? I mean really, is a whole hour of softball absolutely necessary?

Being naturally slim does have drawbacks. I was a bridesmaid in a lot of weddings because I could fit whatever god awful dress the bride picked out. Lucky me. I know it was about the dress and not true friendship because these same women never asked me to be a god mother to their children or a character witness at their divorce proceedings. I’m just a photo op friend.

Being slim does not automatically mean you’re in shape. That's a myth that doesn't take into account if you’ve got tone, strength or flexibility. But the outwardly svelte are openly ridiculed, god forbid, we decide to eat right and exercise. I’m not sure why, perhaps it smacks of showing off. People think, "How dare you want to be slim and healthy! That’s just selfish." There’s more support for the people who are trying to lose 20 pounds than for the people who are trying to prevent the pound pile up in the first place.

That’s why I don't tell a lot of people that I practice mixed martial arts to keep in shape. I've come a long way from my high school gym days, and it’s been great. But recently. My school announced it’s annual 90-Day Fitness Challenge; a combination of training and eating right. I wasn’t exactly eating wrong, but let’s just say if there’s a cure for bacon, I don’t want it.

I looked over the list of foods to avoid and panicked. No pasta? I live on spaghetti, linguini, angel hair, ziti and bow ties. Yum. I had no idea it was bad for me. Somebody should tell the Italians. Bread’s bad too. According to nutritionists, it's the work of the devil. Okay, add white bread to Satan's resume. Somewhere in the Vatican archives is a Da Vinci of the Devil in an apron and a chef's hat, baking up a batch of bread.

Sugar’s on the list. I expected that. Sugar is my down fall. My favorite fix of the moment is the Dunkin Donuts white hot chocolate. I'm blissfully addicted. One per day with whipped cream on top? Yes, please, and make it a double. But, God help me, I’ve given it up for the 90-day challenge.

In a white hot chocolate deprived fantasy, the president of Dunkin Donuts calls me and offers to personally bring me an extra large cup. That’s because my selfish desire to actively be in good shape could very well bring about the ruination of this hither to successful donut franchise: declining sales, plummeting stock price, world markets descending into chaos.

And so, once again, I’m sorry.