Real Entertaining

I admit it, I like reality TV. For one hour at a time, I like to watch the antics, anguish and outlandish craziness of bachelors and bachelorettes, people getting wiped out and, more recently, Bravo TV’s “Real Housewives” series. It’s my mental junk food, after a tough day or week when I don’t want to stay up late losing sleep over extra work I’ve taken home or just to wind down. My absolute favorites are the two seasons set in Atlanta, and for the purpose of this blog, my favorite housewife is Lisa Wu Hartwell, pictured here with her father on her wedding day.

A bi-racial woman whose mom is black and dad is Chinese, I think she brings a great perspective to the group. She’s a regular bundle of energy, so it’s often interesting to see what business venture she’s got cooking next. I just hope for her sake that she can slow down and focus on one passion. It’s great to juggle a couple or even three business projects in related fields, but she seems to have so many one-off projects in vastly different areas, that it’s hard to tell where her true passion lies. I hope her passion is jewelry. Her first collection had some beautiful pieces, and I hope she has stuck with it for a second go-around. I am all for trying different things, but there is something to be said for honing a craft and having that feeling that you’ve outdone yourself. But other than that, it’s great to have different interests and hobbies. It shows that she has an open, active mind, and who could resent that? She also seems like a genuinely warm-hearted person, a great mom, wife, sister, friend and with her connections, a blast to hang out with.

Among the other houswives, the series offers plenty of wit, glamour and cheesy implausible melodrama to keep me watching—and downloading. When Sheree is onscreen, I make detailed notes of what she’s wearing and how her house is decked out. And I wish I were the first one to say: “Who gon’ check me, boo?” Kandi, with her open heart, maturity, subtleness and quiet (seeming) ways is the most admirable one of the bunch, in my mind. Nene is an absolute blast. There are times when I’m goofing around with Baby and project a southern woman’s persona. While watching her carry on, I realized to my utter shock that I’m projecting someone very much like Nene. How did that happen? I’m from the Northeast, and my family is Caribbean. It’s a mystery that I’m still trying to sort out. DaShawn is a great woman. With her foundation, she seems kind, generous and very ladylike. If more of the women were like her, the show would be less trashy, but equally entertaining for their glamourous lives and the goodness that they try to bring to others. She was not on Season 2, but I hope she, her husband and family are still thriving. I hope Kim has stopped being an adulteress and kept woman. That is so degrading.

If you’re wondering why I’m just getting around to talking about the Atlanta edition of “Real Housewives,” it’s because I don’t have cable. In some roundabout way, I heard about the series and since I have a Mac, realized I could purchase and watch whichever episodes I want. I wasted my money on the boring New Jersey edition. Aside from the way those awful gossips all (except for that nice girl from Las Vegas) dragged Danielle’s name through the mud in their town, the season was a waste of time.

I don’t read other blogs that have mentioned the Atlanta series. I like to take the show at face value and trust that these women, all of whom are mothers, are a lot more multi-dimensional and solid than the show makes them out to be. Let’s be honest: Neither Bravo TV nor any other network with a reality TV show is looking out for the best interest of the people who participate. They don’t care if the public assails them on cheap, mean-spirited blogs. And anyway, this ain’t that kinda party!  We’re a family establishment, and we don’t call women certain names. Their children could read this one day!

Lisa Wu Hartwell’s parents are still together, which is fantastic for a couple of reasons. They’ve built an enduring marriage and what looks like a solid family, and they’ve weathered what must have been tests and trials from back when they were young and trying to make it. Sometimes I look around and wonder how some of my aunts and parents of my friends did it: stayed married for 30, 40 years. Hubby sometimes makes me so mad!  But I guess I go back to that article I read years ago about the couple who were married for 75 years. Seventy-five years! They said it helps when you take the time to be considerate of your spouse’s feelings. To know that way back in the day a Chinese man loved a black woman enough to (presumably) show her that he cares for all those decades is heartwarming. To cross that cultural divide and devote yourself to someone and raise a family with them is just plain beautiful. More black women deserve that kind of love, whether it comes from within the culture and, if they are open, from outside of it.


The Mixed Kids

Last year I asked readers if they considered President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama to be an interracial couple. I think they fall into that category, because President Obama brings a biracial experience into the relationship, much like Halle Berry does in her relationship with Gabriel Aubrey. Now I want to extend that question to kids. I’m not talking about the the children from either of those couples, but my 17-month-old daughter, and her cousin Walter.

You might remember that Walter is the 4-year-old son of my cousin Melinda, who married an awesome guy named Jeff, who is French Canadian. They adopted Walter when he was tiny, just 11 months old, and in my mind, the adoption is a moot point. That little boy is the perfect amalgamation of madcap Melinda and Jeff.

Baby and her cousin Walter will have very similar experiences growing up: a black mom and a white dad. They will both hear foreign languages at home—Italian for Baby and French for Walter; travel abroad almost certainly to the Caribbean, Europe, Mexico, and wherever else their insatiably curious parents want to explore; sample cuisines from all over the world and have all of the other experiences that come with a multicultural upbringing. The one difference between them is I’m not sure if Walter has racially mixed biological parents. Actually, I never think about his biological lineage. But the fact remains that his upbringing will be very similar to Baby’s. So can they both be considered biracial kids?

It is an interesting question, and one that I hope will flex people’s minds and get them to stretch their perceptions a little bit about race, culture and all the things that make up our identities. Walter cannot be considered biracial. Even if he had interracial parents, the world would take one look at him and pronounce him black. He loves Jeff, his white dad, to bits and his relationship with Melinda is strong, too. I predict right now (you all are witnesses) that he will be Melinda’s partner in crime. With such strong attachments to each parent, I think he will share experiences with other kids who come from interracial parents, especially when the families remain intact. More often, I see famous biracial adults asserting that they are more than just black. It doesn’t matter if they look more white (like Mariah Carey), black (like Frederick Douglas) or even Pacific Islander (like Tiger Woods), they have insisted that people recognize the parent whose physical traits are more recessive. Otherwise it might seem like they are slighting the less visible parent and subverting an important part of their identity.

Walter will love his parents equally. Similar to famous biracial people, he probably will not want strangers to take one look at him and slap on a label that diminishes the influences that his Canadian-born dad will have had on his life. And like other biracial kids, I can see him diplomatically—but firmly—telling people that ‘Hey, my mom is black, and my dad is white. This is who I am.’

The Trouble with Tresses

Normally, Hubby and I disagree about the amount of effort that should go into styling Baby’s hair. I think it’s essential for her to look cute and presentable at all times, and as you can tell from the photo of her hair supplies, I take this responsibility at least halfway seriously. This will pretty much be the extent of what I can manage, although it’s nothing compared to the system that Nikki over at Beads, Braids & Beyond has come up with.

Hubby is not as interested in styling Baby’s hair as I am. On the few occasions when I’ve left the house early for work and left her morning grooming to him, I’ve come home to look at her outfit and hair and wonder, ‘Why does Baby look like a hobo?’

But we do agree on one thing: Baby’s hair has failed to recover from the rapid thinning that I discussed a few weeks ago, and something should be done about it. Hubby was holding Baby the other day before settling her in her crib when he looked at her head and asked me when we were going to cut her hair. I muttered something that sounded like, “After Easter. I want her to have some hair for Easter pictures.” You heard me right. I am considering cutting off all my daughter’s hair and giving it a fresh start. Her receded hairline is not responding to her new regimen. I lightly brush shea butter and judicious amount of infant and toddler hair care products through her hair. I rub it onto her scalp. I’ve cut back on washing it, and I avoid over styling it. I leave it loose at times, just putting clips in the front or a headband, and sometimes I let it fly free with no ornaments at all. Those are Afro days, and I try to dress her in an earthy-looking outfit to match. But her hair is still very thin on both sides of her head from the front right up to her ears.

I know what you all must be thinking. Black women cherish their hair and want it to grow. Why in the world would I cut off my daughter’s locks? It’s a big deal for me, too. When Hubby first suggested it, I thought he was totally clueless and I think I told him to go soak his head! But I’ve been asking around about this, and what I’ve found is that several women from various cultures swear by it. There is the African-American hair dresser who did it to her daughter, a Dominican salon owner who heard it from an Argentine and then shaved her baby girl’s head, and an Indian woman who said her mother, apparently following a Brahmin Hindu tradition, cut her hair. In all cases, she little girls were between one and two years old, just like Baby, and their hair began to grow back quickly and thicker than it had started out.

The African-American hairdresser told me that her daughter, who is not biracial, had sparse, thin hair for a while, despite her efforts to cultivate it and get it to grow. After she shaved her head, it grew back long and thick, and she showed me before and after photos of her darling girl. The Dominican hair dresser said it corrected her daughter’s receding hairline. The Indian woman said it is customary for those girls to have their heads shaved shortly after they turn one.

So women all over the world do this, it seems. But only Black women have been skeptical about it. Most of them tell me not to worry, to give Baby’s hair time to transition and recover naturally. One friend from church said to forget those other women, because it only worked for them. When Hubby and I had friends over for dinner on St. Valentine’s Day and I brought it up, Little Sister and her friend Selena shook their heads. Selena was a little wide-eyed and said if I cut Baby’s hair, it might grow in weaker and thinner. Little Sister flat out says ‘Don’t do it!’

But I’m at the point where I’m tired of seeing strands come out in Baby’s wide-toothed comb. In the tub. On my clothes. On her clothes. Her hair is not falling out in clumps, but I still hate to see it everywhere. I feel like breaking a cultural taboo and trying what women all over the globe have done for their daughters—start afresh. And if those tales of thick, wavy new growth are true, I might just have to get more hair ornaments for Baby’s new mane!