It’s a Scandal

          It was my cousin’s idea really: She was the one who suggested that I get into watching the ABC show Scandal, so I did.

          I went on Netflix and began watching the first two seasons in preparation for the upcoming season. I’m the type of person that has to see the character development from start to finish. I have to know the backstory, so I spent days watching the show in sequence just to get a feel for it.

          I was intrigued and happily surprised by the great drama and dialogue. I was also happy to see the show’s creator was Shonda Rimes. Yay Hollywood.

          First, there was a strong, female lead in a role that showed her beauty, as well as her strength, poise, and intellect.

          Second, it was a woman of color, and I have to tell you that I was incredibly proud of that fact. Growing up, there were so very few people that looked like me on television. (Okay, Kerry Washington looks a lot better than I do, but that’s not my point.) Sure, I enjoyed the Cosby Show and Family Matters, but those were comedies. Hollywood just wasn’t ready to take the chance on establishing a show where the main character is a black woman – and a smart one at that.

          We have always been supporting characters, sometimes portrayed as lovers of the main character. We were two-dimensional plot fillers with little dialogue. Rarely was the depiction of a capable woman of color. We had attitude, but no depth. We were stereotypes.

          Now, there is a show on television that appeared to focus on a woman that was capable of being more than someone’s “arm candy.”

          As black women, we had finally and successfully gone from playing whore to playing heroine.

           So it gives me great displeasure to state that I’ve grown increasingly concerned with Season 3 of Scandal. The show is still good. Don’t get me wrong. The acting is great. The writing is well developed and complex. The storyline, however, is making me cringe at what they are doing to my favorite female lead.

            In Season 3, Olivia Pope has gone from intelligent, strong and formidable to naive, weak and gullible all because of her love for a man she can never have. This may possibly be realistic, but it is disappointing as far as the character  development is concerned.

          Let me first start by saying that while I like Kerry Washington’s compelling portrayal of Olivia Pope, I’m concerned about the fact that the “love of her life” is a married man who appears to be wrong for her in so many ways.

          Fitzgerald Grant is a powerful man, but he is only powerful because of what others have made him: governor and president. He is not powerful in his own right. His advisors push him in one direction or another and when he does finally try to take charge, he ends up drinking himself into oblivion and antagonizing those around him. He is indecisive and must rely on others to give him what he thinks he wants. He is his father’s son, that’s for sure.

          Yes, the house in Vermont was a romantic gesture, but he is not wiling to pull the plug on his marriage in order to make himself happy; and he’s not doing this for the kids. He’s not doing this for loyalty to his wife. He’s doing it to keep his job. That, to me, is the epitome of selfishness.

           I’m trying to fathom the reasons she is in love with this man and I’m still having difficulty finding them. He is not genuinely kind to anyone. He is a lousy father, much like his own but less overbearing. He is an intellectual, but he wields it with incompetence. He’s not good husband material in any way, shape, form or fashion. He has no concept of romantic loyalty.

Or humility and decency: this is the same person that fired her father from his job after holding the man hostage in a basement, chained to a chair. Oh, and he also spent that time describing how Olivia “tasted” and how “talented” she was in bed.

            Are you kidding me? Don’t say that to her parent and have the audacity to declare your love for her in the next breath.

          He has killed a judge in cold blood to protect the lie of his presidency. He flaunts his mistress in front of his wife, you know, the woman that gave birth to his children. He openly threatened his wife with political ruin by publicly calling her a racist if she did not play along with his goal of finding a way for the country to accept his mistress as his eventual First Lady.

          The only respect I have for him is that he served in the military and fought for his country, regardless of the personal moral cost… I do believe his character wants to do what is best for the country, and I find that noble. I just don’t like the idea of Olivia falling for the 20 % of the time when he’s actually worthwhile.

          What is he the other 80% of the time?

          He is first and foremost an adulterer. He is a father that has no real relationship with his children. He has no problem being cruel and cheating on the mother of those children. He has murdered a federal judge to hide his own indiscretions and retain his job. He has publicly lied about his exploits and has demonized an innocent staffer by naming her as his mistress and subjecting her to public humiliation, while the highest federal authorities in the country protect his true mistress.

          Despite Liv and Fitz’s longing glances and hopeful references to the (amazing I’ll admit it) house in Vermont. Despite their declarations of “I Love You,” she is still his mistress. She is still not his chosen one for the entire world to see.

          It’s not that he’s all that attractive – he doesn’t smolder or ooze sex appeal like one would think. He doesn’t present as particularly kind or altruistic. He doesn’t show himself to be a hopeless romantic, but rather a hapless drunk.

         Don’t get me wrong: I’m not asking for the romantic hero of the show to be perfect, but he should at least be able to cultivate and grow his own set of balls.

            The challenge for the show’s writers is that fans are so invested in this relationship, that they, like Olivia, look past everything else. I did for a while, but I have always felt badly for Mellie. Who can blame her for being bitter? Women are not born that way. They are molded and shaped that way by living a life that is not picture perfect and trying to find some semblance of happiness while wading through all of that heartache.

          I suppose I had it with Fitz when he told Olivia to “Shut up” two episodes ago. I beg your pardon: If I am making a valid point and you allegedly love me, don’t you dare say “Shut up,” to me.  I was surprised that she didn’t let him have it right then and there. After all, Olivia he had no problem giving a quick, but effective verbal slap in the face to Edison, who suggested that, well, she was sleeping with the President (which, by the way, was true.)

          I continue root for the “formidable Olivia Pope.” Not the relationship, but her. Art doesn’t just imitate life. Sometimes life imitates art by making some behavior, while questionable, commonly acceptable. I want to make sure that the little girls of this up and coming generation to have a positive character to look up to and hopefully emulate.  It’s a Scandal if the producers let this opportunity slip by.

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Beautiful Girl

She was a beautiful girl, but she didn’t realize it until she was much older; when it was too late to savor the moment and hold onto it as long as possible.

To some, her complete denial of her own beauty must have made her even more attractive in many ways.

She was very thin at 17; so thin that she felt weak at times. A sinus infection would have her almost passing out as soon as she left her bed in the morning. Her primary care doctor insisted she gain at least 10 pounds and take Iron pills in order to give her the strength that a normal teenager should have.

She had black hair, brown eyes, and mocha-colored skin that was free from blemishes. She barely needed to wear makeup, so she refused – only putting on Avon’s Burgundy Brew shade of lipstick before heading out.

She was picked on growing up which forced her to hang her head low when walking down the hallways at school. Years later she would realize that hanging her head so low for so long in unjustified shame would cause her severe neck pain in the future.

Her family had wanted her to be more feminine; wear dresses, skirts and makeup to show off her lean, feminine frame. They wondered why she wasn’t more like her mother. Her mother carried herself with uncommon grace and poise regardless of where she was going. Her mother always dressed in flattering styles and colors. Her mother never left the house without carefully styled hair, makeup, and intoxicating perfume.

Her aunts and uncles always noted her appearance and wondered why she didn’t try harder to present herself better. They had daughters that “kept themselves up.” Why couldn’t she?

The images of this young woman were so deeply etched in their brains that any subtle change in her appearance disoriented them.

She had stopped wearing glasses when she was 12, but no one seemed to remember that fact even into her 30s. What they did remember was her enviable figure.

In college, she filled out more, but she was still wearing a size 6 when she graduated.

Years later, after getting married and having children as well as living life, her body began to change. Those changes were minor at first, but after the stresses of a divorce and changes in work environment, the pounds began to pile onto her tiny frame.

After 20 years, she gradually gained over 100 pounds without even realizing what it was doing to her body. Her blood pressure was increasing, as was her cholesterol, but these were silent enemies. They didn’t announce themselves nearly as loudly as the clothes she was no longer fitting into.

Slowly but surely, she could no longer deny it. She was getting fat. Not curvy. Not voluptuous. FAT. Some women can gain weight and carry it well. Their beauty shines through despite the extra pounds.

This girl was not so lucky.

The buttons on the pants she wore were making impressions in her stomach. She had to inhale just to get her size 8 pants on, so she moved to size 10, then size 12, then size 14, but she still was in denial. She didn’t look that bad; at least to herself.

Then came size 16, and the loss of the flat stomach that use to produce 100 sit-ups with very little effort. Gone were the Daisy Duke shorts…replaced by slacks and jeans with elastic waistbands. She dared not show her widening legs in a skirt or dress now.

Her back began to hurt. Her doctors became worried and soon, the medication followed.

Then some in her family began to look at her very differently. Rather than pride in her beauty, they instead expressed disappointment in how much she had let herself go. Their brows lowered, their lips pursed, and their heads shook.

In her mind, she was the same person. She continued to be smart, sweet, loving, and compassionate – but she was fat, so nothing else seemed to matter. Her aunt expressed concern regarding her health, and not her appearance. Her aunt had been diagnosed with type II Diabetes, and she didn’t want her niece to share the same fate.

I was that beautiful girl. I look at pictures of myself from when I was in high school and college and wonder what happened to her. That girl weighed 110 pounds. This woman weighs 248.

I have lived my life and while there are many things I would change, the only real regret is that I never appreciated myself then, but I need to appreciate myself now.  Losing weight is hard for just about everyone, but it is especially hard for me. I am my own worst enemy. I can find any way in the world to justify my lack of exercise and my aversion to consistently stay on a healthy diet. I will tell myself whatever lie works best that day, but the truth is, I’m hurting myself and my children by continuing on this path – a path I put myself on and one that only I can remove myself from.

The mind is a powerful tool and until now I have only used it to con myself into and out of things, rather than use it to strengthen my resolve.

This is the beginning of my journey. Will I get back to 110 again? Probably not, and honestly I don’t want to be 110 pounds again. My ideal weight is probably 125 -135, and I will get there. I have to get there. I have two children to care for and it is my duty to be around for them; to watch over them, guide them, protect them, and love them. God blessed me with them and I have to fight for them by fighting for myself.

I also have a husband that loves me and wants me healthy and happy. I’ve made promises to him too that go beyond the vows of the altar.

It is for my family that I do this. It is for their future, and mine, that I start this journey.

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In Support of All Love Stories

          I have always been a romantic. When I was growing up, I would sit by the window in my den with a notebook and a pen, writing poetry and fantasizing about a “Prince Charming” that I wasn’t even sure existed. In my dreams, we would marry, have two children, and live in a large house with a wraparound porch and an oak tree in the front yard. It was a nice love story.

          As I have grown older, I have learned that there are all types of love stories other than the typical “boy meets girl.” Sometimes “boy meets boy.” Sometimes “girl meets girl.” Sometimes, love isn’t as clean-cut as a little girl’s dreams, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t real and shouldn’t be valued just the same.

          Until now, I haven’t given my opinion on gay marriage for two simple reasons: First, I didn’t think I had the right to speak about the topic because I have always felt like an outsider because I’m straight. What experience can I bring to the table? What understanding do I have other than observation? Second, I didn’t think I could speak intelligently about the subject because I haven’t experienced the same stigma, discrimination, and other challenges that are faced by my friends in the LGBT community.

Still, I feel compelled to speak out in support of gay marriage, not for political reasons, but for personal ones. I have so many friends with same sex partners that are deeply in love. To me, it is illogical for them not to be allowed to get married and have that marriage recognized in every legal and social way possible.

I have personally seen just as many loving, long-term gay relationships as I have long-term straight relationships. In this world where unconditional love is incredibly hard to find – when meeting someone that shares your dreams, your goals and your values can be an almost impossible task, why prevent two people from committing themselves to one another if they so choose?

Perhaps I’m being too simplistic in my analysis. Why don’t I just discredit some of the arguments against gay marriage.

         THE “IT’S NOT NATURAL/IT’S A CHOICE” ARGUMENT

          Let’s start with the assertion by some that being gay is unnatural. My initial response is YES IT IS. I’m not an expert, but I knew at a very early age that I liked boys. It didn’t matter if they liked me or not, I liked them. I never had a doubt or a question. It was natural for me. It was something that I didn’t have to think about. Individuals who are gay (and this is just a guess) probably feel drawn to the same sex when they reach that critical age of sentience. The difference is that these individuals are often told that how they feel is “wrong.” They are sometimes told that who they are is wrong. They may not grow up with the benefit of a supported family that accepts them unconditionally.

Scores of gay and lesbian teenagers don’t enjoy this kind of comfort, and they deserve to feel loved and accepted for being themselves. They don’t deserve to feel marginalized, nor do they deserve to experience depression so severe that sometimes they feel no other choice than to take their own lives.

Being gay is not a choice! It is a fact. It is a reality and not something that can be created or changed by some external force.

Sexuality is so much more complicated that sex and romance. It is more complicated than the person you date. It is about the reason you date them. Sexual orientation is a part of a person’s identity and an important part. It includes a manner of feeling and relating to the world and to others. It encompasses an entire worldview as well as understanding one’s place in that world. It’s not simply a lifestyle – it is a life.

Once again: BEING GAY IS NOT A CHOICE. The only choice a person makes is whether or not they are true to who they are and date based on their attraction and happiness.

MYTH: ONLY MEN AND WOMEN SHOULD GET MARRIED BECAUSE ONLY MEN AND WOMEN CAN PRODUCE CHILDREN, ETC., ETC.

          It may shock some people to know that woman can get pregnant without being married to a man. I know. Scary isn’t it? Nevertheless, it happens quite often (too often actually, but that’s a blog for another time.)

At any rate, it doesn’t take a man and a woman to make a baby. It takes access to a sperm and an egg to make a baby. A family is made up of so much more, and in this ever-changing social climate, it doesn’t make much sense to simply limit the definition of family to heterosexual married man and woman.

While I can appreciate the reality that the sexes evolved to continue the human race, there is such a thing as adoption and in vitro fertilization that allow loving and committed couples have children and grow their own families.

There are also millions of children out there that need loving homes. Both gay and straight couples can provide a positive environment for children. Both gay and straight couples can teach children love and kindness, compassion and patience, honesty and forgiveness.

Oh, and one more thing: gay couples don’t make gay children simply due to proximity. Sexual orientation is not socially passed from one person to another.

MYTH: GAY MARRIAGE ERODES THE VERY FABRIC OF SOCIETY AND PROMOTES IMMORALITY

            I have a confession to make: my guilty pleasure is watching the Maury show. I know. I know. It’s terrible of me and I don’t watch it every day. I suppose I could rationalize it by saying that it has to do with my curiosity at examining the human condition. I could say I’m engaging in some sociological research, but the truth is, it’s like watching a scary movie. You know it might scare the crap out of you, but you just can’t take your eyes off it for some reason.

Every now and again, I see these people – all straight – yelling and screaming at one another about how they got drunk and slept with someone; that the child on the television screen doesn’t look like them and they didn’t believe that one sexual encounter could result in a life being born. I watch them talk about threesomes and not knowing who the father of their child is, but chastising the person they brought to be tested for not “stepping up to be a parent.” I watch them talk about how “it just happened,” and “one thing led to another.”

Tell me something: how are these heterosexual hookups more valid relationships than two women that have loved each other for 15 years and want to enjoy the emotional, social, and legal benefits of marriage? How could this loving lesbian couple be damaging to society when we have straight men attributing their manhood to how man women they can “tap” and straight women using sex as emotional currency? How are two men that that dance together on a first date more of a threat than the two straight girls that are kissing at the bar in order to turn on their male counterparts? It is absurd to think that gay relationships and marriage will be the downfall of American Society.

Society is falling apart on its own — without the help of any one specific group. What truly tears at the fabric of society is hate and ignorance. What tears at the fabric of society is the lack of independent thought and subjugation of one’s own beliefs to satisfy another’s agenda. What tears at the fabric of society are a lack of personal responsibility for one’s actions, and a lack of acceptance of those that are different. What tears at the fabric of society is apathy. What tears at the fabric of society is a lack of faith: in one’s God, or oneself, or in one’s own belief system. What tears at the fabric of society is the systematic unraveling of the threads that tie us together. It is our differences that enrich us as a people. Celebrating those differences and enjoying the richness of that diversity is what will bring us together. We can’t call it humanity without it.

MYTH: GAY RELATIONSHIPS ARE MORALLY WRONG OR SINFUL 

            I was raised in a Christian household and I do believe in God. I also believe in a merciful and understanding God. I believe in a God that does not make mistakes, and since people who are gay are born gay, I guess that means they are not mistakes either.

Ok, that sounded way too logical.

Let’s try this: Doubters quote the Bible (Leviticus Chapters 18 and 20) when asserting that gay relationships are an abomination (Although it only mentions men lying with men, and not women lying with women.)

Let’s consider that, according to the Bible, we are all born sinners. Let’s also consider the fact that the Bible also condones polygamy, and condemns adultery. Women are forced to bear the pain of childbirth and experience monthly reminders of this fact because Eve seduced Adam into eating from the tree of knowledge. Women are also heralded as powerful human beings that can sustain life within our own bodies and who should be honored as mothers.

Envy, greed, wrath, vanity, gluttony, sloth, and pride…. all deadly sins, yet we are all equally guilty of them regardless of our sexual orientation and not as a result of it.

It is easy to call gay relationships sinful because it is easy to condemn something if you view it as strictly a political issue. I don’t look at the issue as political. I look at it as personal. I have wonderful, loving, amazing friends and to me, it would be un-Christian of me to judge them and their relationships based on one bible verse written thousands of years ago.

Each individual is responsible for his or her own mortal and immortal fate. I’m not God. I will not judge them. I will love them and accept them as they have accepted me. I will enjoy their kindness, their intelligence, their humor, and all the other wonderful things about my friends and respect their choice to live and love as they please, just as they respect my right to do the same.

A FINAL THOUGHT ABOUT GAY MARRIAGE

            I’m not trying to be politically correct in my support of gay marriage. I speak only for myself: not my employer, or my family, or anyone else. Having lived a little more than 40 years, I’ve learned a thing or two about love. I have been married, divorced and remarried. Am I better than the gay couples that I know who have been together for 15 to 20 years with the same person? No.

Love transcends many things: age, race, religion, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, etc., but even with this truth, it is still the most elusive emotion when it comes to connecting with another person. It is so hard to find someone to love in these trying times. It is so hard to meet someone that you can be yourself with – Someone with whom you can share your dreams and your secrets and your fears. How dare anyone say that love can’t transcend gender as well! How dare anyone say that two people that share a bond of love can’t be together because they are the same sex! I believe that two mature, unrelated, consenting adults should be able to share their lives together and get married if they so choose. I believe they should enjoy the benefits and protections that marriage can provide. I believe that love, real love, is stronger than anything – especially politics.