Getting Past the First Question

If something happens often enough, it can no longer be considered a coincidence. I’ve discovered there’s a standard phrase my friends ask the first time I mention a new guy. This happens well before we assign him a code name (like Home Depot for the guy I met when picking up paint or “the Sicilian” for obvious reasons), and even before the analysis of the first date. This is even before mentioning how we met. The first question seems to go like this:

“Is he cute?” My gay friends quip, quickly followed by “Show me his picture.”

“What does he do?” My white friends ask.

“Where did he go to school?” My African and Asian friends must know.

“Is he white?” An obsessive-level query by many of my black girlfriends. I might say, “I went to karaoke last night,” not even mention a guy, and they’ll ask “Is he black?” Obsessed!

That covers my typical focus group. I”ll do some undercover research to determine if other people fall back on one of these as the go-to question. Does this hold true for your group of friends? What do your friends say when you mention a new guy?

You’re Really Only Black? Just Black?

Men from Egypt say I look like I could be from there. Dominican men claim I could hail from that isle. So do Trinidadians and Ethiopians and Haitians. I’ve even heard this line from an East Indian Man. The most ridiculous turn of that phrase though is from Pakastanis. How exactly do I look like I could be from Pakistan with these dreadlocks? However, I’ve never argued with the Pakistani at the corner store because I’d rather we stay on friendly terms. He knows all of my after 4 AM habits (a Kit Kat if I’ve had martinis or wine; Potato chips if I’ve had margaritas).

Since the statement is only ever said to me by men, it’s quite obvious that it’s an unfortunate pick-up line. The worse kind of flirting. And offensive. If you’re trying to compliment my beauty, why is it necessary to compare me to a different nationality? Did you completely miss the black is beautiful movement?

Whenever I’m in Texas, I hear people say “African American.” It’s common in the media as well. I never say that in New York. If you say “African American,” you’re bound to get disagreement. The person from Jamaica says, I’m Jamaican. The person from Uganda says I’m African. The Canadian says, I’m Canadian. And so on. It’s just a terribly inaccurate term.

This brings me to another related question — “Where are you from?” It sounds like a genealogical query to me, so when asked, I used to answer with a dissertation on where I was born and the various cities I’ve lived in. New Yorkers don’t ask that question to learn what city, state or country you’re from. Instead, they’re really asking where do you live? Which nabe.

It’s an oddity because clearly most people aren’t from where they live. It becomes a circular conversation and up next is, “Where are your people from?” Saying Gary, Indiana isn’t the answer they’re looking for. They want to know what country.

So then it begins. Are you just black? Really only black?

Uh, yes. And that’s enough!

How I Found $1,000 in My Apartment

With all the freedoms of being an entrepreneur, one of the unfortunate aspects is the total unpredictable and infrequent nature of getting paid.

Luckily I’ve found a jackpot of sorts right in my apartment! Here were some of my finds — hopefully they’ll help you find some extra cash in your own apartment!

  • $150 — Sold sofa on Craig’s List. Started by asking for $350, but after posting it for three straight months, I finally got rid of it by lowering the price to this point.
  • $150 — Sold CDs to Second Spin and Abundatrade. They were just sitting around collecting dust anyway. Only bad part was how much it cost to mail the CDs.
  • $50 — Sold a boatload of books to the Strand. I thought I deserved more than that, but it was still better than what I was offered at the Korean store in Midtown.
  • $30 — Used a gift card from Petco. No clue where it came from.
  • $150 — Used a gift card I received from my former employer for taking a Health Risk Assessment. Thanks!
  • $50 — an American Express gift cheque I deposited right into my checking account (can’t do that with a gift card) and $125 in American Express gift cards. Sheesh, what was I doing curating a gift card collection? I don’t remember what they are from but clearly I’ve been collecting gifts for years.
  • $200 — Sold two handbags  to Bag Borrow or Steal
  • $100 — Consigned a David Meister formal dress. The snobby shop refused the rest of my collection, so now, I’m heading over to i-ella to sell clothes. I’m hoping proceeds can cover the after-Christmas sales!

Red Soled Shoes Spotted on the L Train

And I wasn’t wearing them. New York being the fashion capital, this may not seem like news. Yet for a Rockaway bound-L train — beyond the Lorimer stop — it was indeed an odd sight.

In my neighborhood, the white girls don’t comb, brush or regularly wash their hair. Clean hair is so unusual in fact, that one day, held captive on an elevator, a girl behind me stuck her face in my dreadlocks, inhaled deeply and said, “Wow, they don’t even smell.” No sweetheart, stinky is not cute. You millennials can keep that. Oh, and put some makeup on, already.

Bushwick fashion includes tights and stockings with holes developed so meticulously that they snake their way all the way up the right thigh, with just one hole on the left for a smidge of symmetry. These hipsters are redefining style to their own tastes, which I respect. And I’ve even accepted that I’ll never understand their flea market shopping and combat boots worn with flowery, loose, yet belted dresses in the middle of summer. Actually, they wear those terrible boots with everything. The boots often look as if they’ve been worn through actual combat, not just the streets of Brooklyn. These hipsters do, however, carry the super colorful and super cute Cambridge Satchel bags in every color — including fluorescent pink (LOVE). Bushwick fashion is like a mix of the 1970’s hippies and 1980’s punk at the same time.

When I mentioned the red-soled-shoe sighting at one of our so-Bushwick bars that requires walking past a leaning, unpainted poultry shop that will allow you to walk in, pick a live chicken that they then kill, pluck and butcher, then hand to you, still warm, so you can take it home and cook it up for dinner that night, they didn’t believe me.

“I’m serious,” I huffed to my friends between sips of red wine on tap — another Bushwick experiment. Interesting, but I wish they’d get some Malbec by the bottle already.

They insisted the shoes must have been Payless knockoffs or those Miu Mius. I wouldn’t have been fooled by such! The Miu Miu shoes have pink bottoms and if I can’t tell the difference between Louboutins and Payless, I should be required to relinquish my Pink Platinum Fashionista card. Someone wearing their Loubies on the train though — it was hard to believe considering that just that a few years ago, it wasn’t safe to have white earbuds stuffed in your ears because thieves assumed they were attached to an iPhone 2.

Several weeks after the red soles spotting, I was again on the train, almost at my stop. I noticed a MAN sporting the exact same tote I talked about and coveted for five years before finally buying it in Paris this year. I had to think about yoga to remember how to breath. First of all, a MAN was carrying my bag. Not only that, his looked crisp, like he’d just walked out of the store with it. It was a gut punch. But you know what made it worse? He was ROCKING it. I mean killing it. Better than I could. It was the cut and color of the rest of his outfit, his slimness and his posture that made him pull it off so well.

I have no beef with men carrying purses. They usually carry bags that I wouldn’t be interested in having. There’s no risk of a sample sale fight over the last remaining handbag with a man. I thought. Now they’ve crossed the line. This man and I made eye contact. Suddenly, the two of us couldn’t wrench our eyes away from each other. Romance blossomed — between a girl, a boy and a bag.

All I Want for Christmas Is a Loo

I wonder how the Virgin Mary would have fared had she been required to look for a bathroom in New York City. Finding a bathroom is like a rite of passage. One that’s only meaningful if you’re surely and truly desperate to go. On those occasions, you’d welcome a manger to squat in for a moment.

I’d picked up a cafe au lait and a sweet treat at Amy’s Bread in the Village and had already paid and taken a bite before I realized their bathroom was out of order. Nevermind that I just saw an employee come out of there.

If you’re serving coffee along with treats laden with chocolate and milk and nuts and butter, it’s an absolute sin to not have a bathroom. Moses told us so. Those words weren’t the least bit moving to the less than enthusiastic baristas, and like Mary, I was forced to move on.

I mentally clicked through my usual standbys for a public toilet above which I was willing to expose my bottom.

  • Hotels are one of my favorite options. You just stride right in and acknowledge the bellhops as if you’re a guest. The bathrooms are usually near the elevator, and are oh so nice.
  • Fitness centers — My membership had lapsed at Equinox and I wasn’t prepared to suffer the embarrassment of submitting to the fingertip scan only to be denied entry. And, I no longer have a membership or my New York Sports Club keyfob, so that wasn’t an option either.
  • Starbucks used to be acceptable in an absolute pinch. They are now the litter box of the world. Plus, I was clutching a coffee from somewhere else making that even less of an option.

The Village is one of those picturesque neighborhoods that sometimes makes you feel like you’re on a movie set. Suddenly, I realized I was on a movie set. I couldn’t make out any the names on any of the trailers and none of the trees bore the usual production or No Parking signs. I didn’t know if they were star-quality or the usual Law & Order nonsense that takes over our neighborhoods on any given day.

I did, however, spot that one of the trailers was the women’s restroom! There was no one around. Not even any clipboard-wielding PA — the bane of any movie set. These young Production Assistants typically work the hardest and are given the worse jobs in keeping the set together. To the public though, they are assholes, wielding their power like Attila the Hun; only the result of their empire may or may not make it to the cutting room floor.

“Oh come ye,” the toilet called. I wasn’t going to stand there and keep looking around. Up the stairs to the trailer I went and the door was open! It didn’t even smell like a porta-potty. Hark the herald angels sing.

Single, Double, Triple Threat

I don’t believe the Mayans. 2012 can’t be the end of the world. Things just got good. Plus, Prince didn’t make a song about 2012. He did one on 1999 and that came and went without a wrinkle. Not even one dove cried.

2012 was the year that my sister gave birth to the first grandchild, I quit my job and started my own business, and my brother graduated from college. My mom, much like a room full of labradoodle puppies, is typically wired, bouncing from one topic to the next. One room to the next. One website to the next. But with her kids becoming an entrepreneur, a mother and a graduate in the same year, that woman doesn’t have one nerve left. IMG_1442

This isn’t the first time my sibs and I have done this. A few years ago, I got a promotion, my sister got married and my brother moved to another state. All within months of each other. Prior to that, I moved to another state and my sister graduated from college, all within a 12-month period. I can’t remember what was going on with my brother at that time, but being the boy and the youngest, whatever it could have been, it was remarkable.

What is it about me, my sister and brother that makes these events all trigger at the same time?

It’s not terrible problem, obviously. However, my promotion to Principal, a role I felt was quite an accomplishment, being celebrated in the same conversation as the discussion about whether we should fire the florist (again), did leave me feeling a little cheated. Or maybe that feeling was anger over how difficult it was to find a competent florist. Next to impossible, in fact. (Finally, we were forced to settle on one simply because it was three days before the wedding.)

I thought about why this phenomenon keeps happening to us. Could it be competition? Did the knowledge of my sister having a baby compel me to change careers and encourage my brother to wrap up his studies? Did we not want to be outdone?

Maybe now that my little nephew was going to bear witness to my life, did I want to be a good example? That’s a pretty thin explanation  The only thing I’m concerned about regarding my little neffie is whatever I need to do to keep him from having a Houston accent.

Could it be that we are inspired by each other? One of us gets on a roll and the others feel a fire in the belly? Maybe that has some merit, but I don’t see babies and weddings being things that require inspiration, necessarily.

Could it be that we’re all just coincidentally on the same cycle of success? Perhaps.

Then it hit me. The real thing that’s going on here. It became clear when one of my brother’s professors said that he overanalyzed everything. My sister and I immediately rushed to his defense. Clearly, we all have the same problem.

So I’m going to chalk this question  up as an example of overanalysis. Instead of continuing to meander down this path, I’m going to be grateful for an amazing year and toast to whatever’s coming up next.

An Interview With the Original Owner of My Vintage Coat

Dear original owner,

I scored your coat at a vintage shop and have a few questions for you:

Q: If you could afford this couture coat, I have to assume that you had enough money to have help. I imagine that you had a “girl” who looked like me and cooked, cleaned and took care of your kids. (So what did YOU do all day?) Could you imagine your “Girl” one day having a granddaughter who would buy your coat? My grandmother was a “Girl.”

Q: Can you imagine that married women would fight to be accepted into the corporate workforce and then some of them would choose to keep all their household responsibilities as well, thereby having two full-time jobs and thus tons of stress?! Meanwhile, their husbands tend to do the same amount of work that your husband did. Why? Well, there was a Enjoli perfume commercial back in the 80s where a woman touted:

I can bring home the bacon/ Fry it up in a pan/ And never, ever let you forget you’re a man.”

This commercial helped convince a whole generation (or two) of women to be 24-hour women. Many women accepted that philosophy quicker than a cashmere sweater at a sample sale. We’re still waiting on the men’s jingle on how they can work and cook the bacon. Although these days grass-fed beef would be more apropos.

Early 1960s coat shown via catalog ad from that time, alongside me rocking the vintage frock in 2012.

Q: What happened to the original top button? What do you think of the new blinged out button I replaced it with?

Q: Why did you get rid of the coat? Was it because it was no longer fashionable? Or, when you passed away did your children lack fashionable instincts and give it away?

Q: Did you have one of those leopard coats like Jackie O? If so, where can I find it?

Q: What size were you? If it fits me, I’m thinking that in those days, you were definitely considered a big girl. Did you feel beautiful? Did you have lots of clothing options? Did you ever diet? If so, which diets were available? I’m pretty sure that Jenny Craig and Atkins weren’t options back then. Perhaps you did Weight Watchers as your “reduction” program?

Q: How many sexual partners did you have? Did you wait til you were married and then that night think, “Is that all there is?”

Q: Our president today is a black man. What do you think of that?

Q: Did you ever hear Whitney Houston sing or Michael Jackson dance?

Q: Can you imagine two hurricanes, a tornado and earthquake in NYC in an 18-month period? It happened.

Q: Would you believe that we’re still on many of the same political issues as in the 1960s? Yup, we’re still arguing about abortion, are still talking about birth control and people are still fighting for their civil rights. I know, shocking. Hopefully in 40 more years, we can move on to other social, political and environmental issues.

So thanks for your time. I’m really enjoying your coat. By the way, who was the designer? The tag is gone. I can use the Internet — this massive public spiderweb of information — to try to find the answer. But my generation expects immediate gratification, so I hope you can just give me the answer.