Our Fashion Weekend

Baby must have just finished a minor growth spurt. All of a sudden, it seems, she has a thicker layer of pudge on her feet, making her shoes more snug. And she has developed a cute little bay window, which makes her denims fly open in a very unladylike manner. So after buying her a couple of pairs of cute Italian shoes at Daffy’s on Broadway, I decided to to go the nearest mall and stock up on some new pants. I only intended to buy a couple of pairs. But once I walked into the OshKosh B’gosh, all my plans changed.

All of the winter stock had been cleared out, aside from denims which are a perennial wardrobe staple. I figured I should start stocking up on the colorful little overalls and capris that were being proffered, and I had to get coordinating T-shirts,too, right? Next thing you know, I’ve loaded up on skorts, capris, tops and the denims I actually intended to buy. I also got some socks and irregular hair clips that were being cleared out at reduced prices.

Next stop: Gymboree, where I had hoped to find Baby’s size in an adorable yellow rain slicker that I walked away from several weeks earlier. The item was newly in stock then, and I thought I could save a little money if I waited for a sale before buying it. No such luck. When I checked the racks near me, and asked the sales associate to check too, we both came up empty! I was disappointed, but Baby was so absorbed working on her yogurt fruit snacks that I don’t think she even noticed.

I consoled myself with three yummy items: a dress with a patchwork quilt motif, white pants with colorful butterflies and a few other items, including orange butterfly hair clips. Tell the truth moms: Gymboree is a wonderful store, right?

The tally from my buying frenzy came out to a little over $200, which is not a small amount. But I expect Saturday’s haul to make up the bulk of Baby’s casual clothes for the spring and summer (with carefully chosen fill-in pieces from area tag sales and a consignment store called Milk Money). Actually, the bulk of Baby’s wardrobe thus far has come from the discount and second-had channel. To this day, I’ve only bought a handful of items from full-priced retail stores, most of which came from a European-esque boutique in the Ironbound. (It’s where I got Baby’s luscious 100% silk christening gown.) So yeah, I might be justifying my recent extravagance, but I think we deserve a brief deviation from our normal routine of thrift and restraint.

And Through the Woods

You might say that I was living a little vicariously through Baby two weeks ago when I suggested we bring out her L.L. Bean sled and head out to a local park for a couple of trips across the packed powder.  I had always wanted to try sledding when I was little, but things never came together for it, despite plenty of white Northeast winters punctuated with “snow days” off from school. For various reasons, there were no invigorating runs down hills in the park, or treks across snow-covered fields.

Until Baby came along, I had forgotten all about that. I left it in the past and figured, ‘So what if I missed out on a little fun. Sledding is no real sacrifice, in the grand scheme of things.’ But I realized that I want Baby to have a rich life, beginning with a childhood full of fond memories (even if she sometimes sees things that aren’t so good). I think that a series of small joys like sledding, combined with responsible parenting on our part should help her become a well-adjusted, poised and amiable when she grows up.

It turns out that Baby loved the experience. She smiled and waved at me as she rode by and I snapped her picture or took videos. After seeing her laugh and wave, I didn’t feel so bad about giving her one of my unfulfilled childhood “dreams”. As long as I don’t try to force her to become a renowned concert pianist or neurosurgeon, I think it is alright.

My Funny Little Valentine

This morning I came downstairs to chop and marinate two chickens for a casual dinner party, when I glanced over at Baby’s high chair. Little Sister had tied two helium balloons to her chair, and propped up an oversized greeting card on the seat. How sweet, I thought, Baby’s first valentine! But it was not to be, because later that morning the balloons scared Baby so much that she ran shrieking away from them in terror!  Her face contorted into the most anguished pout, she scrambled out of my lap and she darted around the table toward the kitchen. She refused to be in the same room with them. We couldn’t believe it.

We rounded up the balloons and tied them to a plant stand in the living room, near the window. On the way out to church, we passed a neighborhood friend and told her about the incident. She says her son reacted the same way to helium balloons when he was very young, too. The day was not a total waste, however. Baby dug the bouquet that Hubby got for all of us. She never once looked at the lilies and roses suspiciously.

Hubby informs me that while he was holding her and trying to raise the blinds in the living room, Baby still tried to get away from him and the balloons! And later in the day, he was showing her around his bookshelf and she recoiled at the sight of a small ceramic clown. I guess this means skipping an elaborate first birthday party for Baby, with balloons and clowns and things was a good idea after all.

This is What Happens When You’re Snow Bound!

Northern New Jersey escaped the blizzard that whalloped the Mid-Atlantic region two weekends ago, but we couldn’t get lucky twice. We had to suffer right along with the rest of the region, which got 17 inches of snow in some places. Anyway, after a day of juggling take-home work and Baby, whose family daycare center was closed, I’m still unable to wind down and go to bed. So I rummaged through a few old digital files, pulled out my YouTube account and blew the dust off of it. Hey, it’s been so long since I’ve posted to YouTube that there is a blizzard of dust on my account! I made some changes to my membership, so I could link more videos to this site.

For those of you who like animals, I found this home movie from a visit to the Bronx Zoo in Summer 2005. That year, Mother and Little Sister visited Hubby and I shortly after we had bought our house.  Little Sister doesn’t appear in this film—otherwise, I wouldn’t have posted it. Don’t tell Hubby I said this, but I think gorillas are amazing and complex creatures, and I wouldn’t mind seeing a few one day—from the safety of a well-armed safari vehicle, of course. (I convincingly project the image of a city girl who thinks nature is terrifying and loathsome, so Hubby would get a kick out of word that I like gorillas.)

Although this winter is not so bad, and I don’t mind the snow,  I feel the dryness and the cold acutely because it’s been several years since I’ve traveled outside the United States. Feeling confined, domesticated and parochial, I believe a visit to Africa sounds romantic and adventurous right now. I would do one of those safaris where you stay in a luxury tent in the evenings and see the animals during the day. Or swing into Capetown and do outdoorsy things during the day while spending the evenings at restaurants, boutiques and cultural places.

Again, don’t tell Hubby I said these things, otherwise he’ll sense an opening, and rather than offering a trip to a world-class city, where I can see stunning ancient architecture and relax at spas, he’ll pursue me relentlessly about the quote-unquote joys of camping in a Nevada desert and skipping hot showers for several days.

A Guy’s (Nostalgic) Take on Things

My clutter bug tendencies have one great benefit—a great collection of old editions of Essence magazine, which published a terrific 25th anniversary issue in February 1995. It led off with a magnificent cover shot of Tyson Beckford embracing a beautiful woman. There was a bangin’ recipe for sweet-potato pie, a luscious photo spread featuring the cast of the old Fox sitcom Living Single in ethnic wedding fashions and a tribute to Bob Marley (whose mother was black and father was white, by the way) written by his widow Rita Marley.

It also ran a feature article about an interracial BW/WM couple. This piece steered clear of discussions about whether black women should open their hearts to the possibility of dating outside their race. There were no statistics detailing the higher rates at which we were dating across color lines. (Blah, blah, blah) In a pair of companion essays, it simply laid out the husband’s and wife’s perspectives of their union. They described their courtship, marriage, parenting a bi-racial child, and the ways in which the social scene in Oakland, Calif., responded to them.

Shimon-Craig—the husband—had a great essay. We don’t often hear from guys on the other side of this issue (probably because they would rather watch old episodes of Lost or 24 than talk about relationships), so his essay provided refreshing insights into the dynamics of their relationship. He talked about why Katrina LaThrop made his heart flutter. I also felt a bit bad for him when he recounted some of the hostile reactions he got from blacks in public whenever the family was out shopping or were trying to enjoy a cultural event. You would think blacks would understand why he and Katrina made a point of educating their son about his mixed heritage. But no. According to his anecdotes, some people went out of their way to be obnoxious and unkind. I expect the social scene in Oakland, Calif., to be much more welcoming for all interracial couples. And I hope he and his wife are still going strong after another 15 years (from publication of that article).

Back in the 1990s, when Susan Taylor was still editor-in-chief and the magazine had not lost its way, it used to run occasional, sometimes annual, write ups about interracial dating. People were just getting around to talking about the issue, and Essence did it’s share to deliver classy, well-thought out discourse on the topic. At this point, I hope that we can talk less about whether interracial dating is alright for black women, and start talking about how, like other married couples, we make it work.

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We Are Gathered Here

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been two years since I started posting my musings, your comments, photos, links and other content related to black women involved in interracial relationships. Do you know what else can be accomplished in two years? You can complete graduate studies, change careers, or start a relationship and a family, depending on how quickly you work. Creative projects like books, albums, plays, movies, etc., can all be started and finished within two years. (I should know. Last fall I read and gave feedback on a friend’s manuscript of her memoirs as a single mom, right before she self-published it.)

But why did I start this project? Several years ago, to be honest, Hubby and I always seemed to be arguing and I was convinced that I made a horrible mistake marrying him.  Sometimes I brooded or complained to my cousins about what I thought were his belligerent, immature, irrational, insensitive, unstable ways. And he must have thought that I was too rigid, emotionally unavailable and loud. I began to wonder if our cultural and racial differences had anything to do with our problems. Why wouldn’t they? Race and culture have powerful influences over our personalities and how we relate to others and how we see the outside world. President Barack Obama was right when he said “change has come,” but for most of us, race will always be a subtext in our interaction with others.  No matter how transcendent an age we think we are living in, race matters on a certain level.

I went looking for advice, quietly, because although I complained to my family about our problems, I rarely breathed a word about my concerns. I found several Web-based initiatives for helping marriages, including Marriage Transformation. It didn’t have a lot of content that addressed my situation specifically, but I bookmarked it anyway because much of the advice, especially guidance that I tried for myself, transcended race and culture. Also, I read an article about a couple, white, that had been married for 75 years! The wife said one of the most sustaining elements of their relationship was being considerate of each other’s feelings. From these and a few other sources, I learned that marriage is a promise to stay. See it through. Slowly, we came to an understanding about his bizarre outbursts and I stopped locking my feelings in a vault.

This is all great, I thought, but what wisdom do interracially married couples have for me?  Maybe people like Alfre Woodard and Roderick Spencer; Shadoe Stevens and Beverly Cunningham; or other famous and interracial couples have touched on this subject, I thought. No such luck. Instead of insight from couples who have been in these relationships for a long time, I found several blogs and one Web site with a chat function, all of which actively encouraged black women to open their minds to the possibility of dating outside their race. Ultimately, I felt that the content on some of those sites were too preachy and overwrought, and I thought the presentation was tacky.

But it wasn’t all a waste of time. The very best blog about black women in cross-cultural relationships was Angry Black Cat, an attractively laid out and dynamic Web site that was created and maintained by an interracial married couple. It was such an interesting concept: a husband-wife team that took up this hobby together and had a great time sharing their common and individual experiences as related to their relationship. The site was loaded with interesting features like well-written posts, podcasts, message boards, videos, surveys and insightful comments from people who seemed reasonable. My favorite feature: the levity. No sniping among visitors was allowed. Jeff and ABC seemed like very personable, energetic people, and for several months, I was hooked on the site, checking it every day for new content. (That was unreasonable. I mean this was their hobby. They had real paying jobs to maintain.)

After a while, my marital problems seemed to fade. But I realized that there were popular conversations going on about relationships like mine, and I decided to be heard, too. Why not? I have wise relatives and friends who have given me a lot of good advice over the years about life, relationships and womanhood. I’ve called a few marriage-related situations right myself, so I thought a blog would be a great place to share some of those opinions and experiences with others.  Gentle readers, you’ve caught me at a great time. I have a young marriage and family, and as we all grow and mature, The Latte Cafe could very well develop accordingly. Even though I had to possess a certain levelheadedness to enable me to attain what I have, I don’t know it all. So I hope that I will enjoy, for the most part,  learning from all of the experiences lie ahead and that you’ll benefit somewhat from what I have to share.