Girl, Thats Not Your Booty, That’s Your Hip!!! (Challenging Accepted American Media Images of Women of Color)

I don’t care what she tells you.  I don’t care if she looks you right in the eye when she says it.  If she says she doesn’t check her butt out in the mirror before she leaves the house, she’s lying!  We’re all guilty of it.  Hair, skin, nails and booty.  At this point, I don’t even know what I’m looking for!  I’m 27 and I’m aware nothing back there is going to change.  I’m not genetically configured in a way that constitutes a big ol’ Nicki Minaj backside.  Shoot…it wasn’t in her genetic make up either!!!!  I can’t afford the shots and I heard the serum can leak into another  body part and you’ll get a fat knee or belly button or something. Ewww!  So at some point you have to be happy with what you have and be confident and innately sexy.  When was it determined that booty makes a woman sexy?

I remember sitting in an auditorium at Stony Brook University and listening to an informative speech about the story of Sarah Baartman  AKA “The Hottentot Venus.”  I was so moved I decided to do a feature on it with a youth group I worked with at a local dance studio.  We inserted a tribute to her in our annual black history show.  If you don’t know her story I’ll give you the edited version.  She was one of the Khoi people of South Africa.  She was a slave under British rule and she was sent to London in 1810 as a “performer” for “exhibition.”  She was exhibited because of her alluring aesthetic appeal in comparison to European women of that time and her physical features were considered bizarre.  She was the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not of her time.  After she died (allegedly of smallpox) her genitalia was displayed in a Parisian museum.  I was so hurt.  How could a human being objectify another human being like that?

I examine where we are present day.  I think about the images forced upon us by main stream media.  We are surrounded by booty!  Turn on the radio…what do you hear?  Rihanna’s “Cake”, Big Sean singing “ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass…”, or how about the contemporary version of the 80’s babies party anthem by Luke “I Wanna Rock”.  I’m showing my age but remember that song by 2 Live Crew “Pop That Coochie”?  We all know Sir-Mix-A-Lot “I like big butts.”  This has been going on for years!  We’ve been brainwashed by booty.  In a way I support it because there was also a time where curves weren’t accepted at all and we were sending the wrong messages with pencil thin chain-smoking models on our television screens.  However, there has to be a definitive line drawn.  This line has to be thick enough and bold enough to honor our heritage.  This line has to be thin enough and bright enough to be able to laugh at ourselves in certain circumstances.  Who doesn’t love the Thugnificent song from animated series “The Boondocks” entitled , “Booty Butt Cheeks?”

This line has to be transparent enough that we can step over it and around it when people of other ethnicities and cultures attempt to comment on the subjects that we think are exclusive to our own colored community.  Let me be clear…there is no topic that can be our own little secret.  So if it would offend you if your Caucasian brother or sister mentions a black woman’s rear end…maybe it shouldn’t be a topic of conversation for you either.  I need us to be able to recognize when things have gone too far.  I can’t shop for my 13-year-old sister anymore!  The shirts look like bras!  The shorts look like panties!  There’s writing on the back of the pants.  I’m alarmed as a sibling, let alone a parent.  I’m going to learn how to sew so she can wear clothes that actually cover and protect her body!

I was describing an outfit to a co-worker the other day.  I was telling her how I couldn’t wait to wear it because it accentuated my “curves.”  She said, “What curves?  You have no booty.”  I’m used to comments like this so I stood up and I did my best booty pose with an award-winning provocative smile.  She simply responded, “You’re so cute. Girl, that ain’t booty, that’s your hip!”  We all cracked up and then attempted to resume working with tears in our eyes.  As women we have to accept all forms of beauty and appeal,  we have to love ourselves because media will never give us accurate perceptions of what attracts a man to a woman.  We think in different ways, our feelings vary, and our self-expression will always be similar but never identical.  To any woman who struggles with body image and consciousness…love yourself (I don’t care how cliché it sounds)…or ShutYaMouthAndCallMeUgly 😉

-By Shaun Nickens

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“Having My Cake and Eating It Too” (Chest Naked Part 7)

“Whats this I hear about my son being a girlfriend beater?”

Travis’ mother, Tori was speaking musically in a key Travis had never heard before. His mother’s voice was high-pitched and her tonality was a falsetto that could rival Mariah Carey. She was angry and he could tell that the conversation was going to be extremely long.

“Mom, I’m guessing you went to church today?”

“Hell yeah!” she exclaimed. Tori then realized she responded to a church reference with the word “hell.” She quickly whispered, “Lord forgive me.”

“I’ve been out of service for a couple of weeks because of the operation on my hemorrhoids. By the way, why didn’t you come see me in the hospital? Sire came to check on me.” Tori took a thoughtful breath and then when   Travis didn’t respond she continued. “Anyway, why did you abuse that poor girl? I liked Tamara. She did so much for you. Pretty girl too. What’s wrong with you? Where did I go wrong? ” Travis didn’t say anything. Every question was rhetorical. This wasn’t a conversation. It was a dramatic monologue. When he couldn’t take any more badgering and his ears began to ring he decided it was time to interject.

“How did I abuse Tamara?”

“From what I understand from Sister Karen , you threw the girl on the floor, ripped her clothes off and borderline raped her. I’ve already changed your name in my phone to ‘Ike Turner’. Then Sister Tamica said you are with some fast girl named ‘Nice’ or some foolishness like that.”

“Her name is ‘Special’, mommy.”

“They should have named her ‘Speedy’ because she’s fast! Apparently I should have named you ‘Stupid’ because you are embarrassing me to no end!” Tori shrieked.

“There’s nothing to be embarrassed about mom. I’m grown. I’m not your responsibility anymore.”

“Oh yes you are! Need I remind you, technically you’re married! Your father left you all that money on one condition…”, Tori said.

“…I must be a married, ‘responsible’, committed and dedicated man. Yes I remember”, Travis finished his mothers thought.

“Yup! That wonderful girl married you knowing you were so …lost. She really believed in you. How do you repay her? You treat her like garbage. I’m glad she busted up your apartment! Glad your brother kicked your -”

“Mom, did you call to say anything positive?”, Travis interrupted.

“Absolutely not,” Tori stated firmly. Then she hung up the phone.

Travis missed his father. They say women with “daddy issues” have trouble in their relationships but what about sons? Travis and his father were buddies and traveled together all the time. They were like brothers. Travis senior supported his son, loved him, and communicated with him. Then when Travis was a junior in high school, his father died of AIDS. Tori told people that it was cancer but the truth was Travis senior was having an affair and contracted it from his lover. Luckily, Tori tested negative. There wasn’t much love-making in their marriage. Besides, Tori insisted on condom use since her handsome husband was always traveling and couldn’t be trusted.

Travis knew Tori was right. He missed Tamara all the time. He didn’t miss her physically but he missed knowing that she would be there if he needed her. She never smothered him. She was patiently waiting to be to be validated. Travis always introduced her with her name and no title.  Despite the lack of respect, Tamara agreed to marry him so he could collect the money his father left for him and avoid the 9-5 rat race.  She never saw a cent.   There was no bells, bows, or ceremony. He didn’t even claim her as his girl. They were married on paper only.

Travis lived a sustainable life at home. It wasn’t cushy comfy but he could survive and that was good enough for him. On the side, he sold his art pieces. That’s when he would splurge on the more lavish things he liked. If Tamara divorced him he would be forced to find a job.  For some reason, his father allocated his money based on his relationship status. Travis assumed it had something to do with his fathers fascination with “The American Dream.” He was always taught you must have family, property, and profession.  Would Tamara divorce him?  He never even thought of that.  He wondered if his brother Sire had begun to plant seeds in her impressionable mind.  He couldn’t stand Sire.  He loved him a little bit but he hated him a little bit more.  Travis was convinced Sire was jealous of him.  Travis was also convinced even though Sire was bigger and buffer…Travis was brighter and looked better.  They were in constant competition.  Travis always won.  He would get Tamara back and keep Special on the side and neither woman would suspect the other.  While he continued calculating, his phone rang again.  Once again, it was his mother Tori.

“Yes maam”, he answered annoyed.

“I forgot to tell you, you need to watch that funky temper of yours.  Keep your hands to yourself and keep your gun in the drawer.  I gave that weapon to you for emergencies only”, she said.

“Ma, I have absolutely no earthly idea what you are referring to. My gun doesn’t leave the drawer and the safety is always on.”

“Boy, you think I’m stupid?!  You shot that poor girls back window out!  According to the rumor mill, her cousin Courtney is working on a retaliation strategy.  You may want to take the safety off that gun, son.”

Travis was alarmed now. Thoughts were swimming in his head. All his previous intentions were quickly overshadowed by concern and obsessiveness. Travis was furious.

“I didn’t do it, mom.”

“Well who did, T?”

“A dead man”, Travis answered. He then ended the call. He powered off the phone, took the battery out and put it in his pocket. He put a shirt on, grabbed the 9mm out the drawer, loaded it and tucked it in his pants. He left a note for Special with specific instructions on how to move out and how to return his key.  Then he swiftly exited the apartment without even locking the door.

(To be continued…)

“Is There Anything Else I Can Do To Assist You?” (Shout Out to Customer Service Professionals)

Dedicated to my grandmother and my uncle who both retired from the phone company

Every writer has one article,post,paper, entry, song, etcetera that could end their relationship, terminate a friendship or land them on the unemployment line. This is that post! Oh well… *#yolo!

I am writing this as a tribute to my ex co-workers, current co-workers, and telephonic customer service representatives everywhere! Clock out personal. Take your headsets off, put the coffee/ red bull/ 5 hour energy down and read this for 3-4 minutes. Consider it your meditation for the day!

This post is a tribute to customer service representatives who work in call center environments. It is time that we shed some light on a typical workday:

Get up, bathe, throw clean clothes on (no need to dress too extravagant because our clients never see us), put your hair into a headset friendly style (my Afro doesn’t do too well in this category) , commute, grab something portable for breakfast (usually this is caffeine of some sort and a carbohydrate like a bagel and cream cheese) then clock in right on time for your shift. Usually I’m exhausted before my day even begins! I wake up tired. I dream fatigue! However, here’s the thing: When you call in to your phone company because you were charged for 12 extra minutes on your cellular bill and you’re irate and you “want to speak to a manager” or you call your cable company because it’s a hail storm outside and you can’t watch Love and Hip Hop and you’re irate and you “want to speak to manager ” or you call your auto insurance company because you had a DWI and your rate went up and you’re irate and you “want to speak to a manager” …It is my job to sound like Minnie Mouse on the phone and tell you how I live to satisfy your needs because I “appreciate your business.”

The problem with that is the fact that I am indeed…contrary to the customers and employers belief …I am a human being. That means that I more than likely have a family, some responsibilities, a partner, dreams, and a healthy dose of dysfunction. I am not allowed to deal with those basic volatile needs because my job is to cater to the customer. However, this post is an appeal to a customers better nature. When you call in to a 1800 number and you request a rep, keep a few things in mind:

1. That rep speaks to 50-80 of you a day

2. If your request is ridiculous (and I bet you 1 hours pay that it is) , that rep is going to mute the phone and talk about you to a co-worker.

3.That rep has probably been holding their urine for an hour while they wait for their scheduled 15 minute break.

4. The customer IS NOT always right. That horrible phrase should be buried right next to the tooth fairy!

5.  There are index cards that are bigger than his/her cubicle.

No child ever grows up saying ,” I want to work in customer service.” It’s not exactly a dream job. More than likely, it’s a post college graduation, post retirement, or post rehab type of job (just kidding but not really) . Don’t get me wrong, some people make careers out of it and prove to be happy and successful.  However, for many of us, it is simply a “stepping stone” to a more applicable professional lane.  The simplicity of the job should not nullify the psychological discipline it takes to complete each phone call efficiently. Whether you chose the career or the career chose you. We don’t get much respect. People assume you can’t do anything else. We’re pretty much treated like the waitress who is a struggling musician.

Long story short…We have feelings too. Feelings, dreams, ambitions, and ability.  We are treated like telephonic automatons but we are expected to have empathy and excitement over the phone lines.  We are the motivational speaker’s number one consumer, we survive with quotes of the day and cute forwarded text messages, we live for birthdays because it gives us a few minutes off of the phone to eat a slice of cake.  In order to survive a work day we have to abide by undeviating principles specific to our individual goals or we will logout of our phone, take our plant off the desk, get in the car, and blast Gospel music all the way home.  Or we would call that free hotline/Employee assistance program implemented to keep us from “going postal.”  If it wasn’t for us and our strength and those who depend on our paychecks, you would here the following phrase a lot more often:

“We do appreciate your business. Thank you for holding.  A representative will be here to assist you shortly.”

Our “offices” look like rat mazes and our bosses actually ARE…(wait! let me shut my mouth on that one)

So as a final plea…please be a little more sensible and reasonable and patient when you call us-Or you can ShutYaMouthAndCallMeUgly 🙂

[Feel free to vent about your job in the comments section.  Follow us on twitter @ShutYaMouthNow]

*Yolo=You Only Live Once