Cover Girls

The May edition of Ebony and the premiere issue of Jones hit the newsstands recently, and both offer plenty of fodder for Latte Cafe this month. Paula Patton offers probably the best pregnancy magazine cover I’ve seen since a very pregnant Halle Berry was on the cover of InStyle (I think that’s the name). Patton looks like a goddess, draped in that dreamy fabric, with her hair tumbling down her shoulders and holding the bouquet to her chest. In the article, Paula talks about managing her movie career and motherhood. Her husband Robin Thicke, the R&B singer/songwriter and son of actor Alan Thicke, contributes a sidebar, where he extols his wife. Among other things, he says: “As long as I keep my patience and take care of her, then we’re fine. She deserves to have a very calm and happy pregnancy.”

Patton is the child of a Black man and a White mother, but don’t dare call her ‘biracial’ or ‘mixed-race’. She declared that she is Black, full stop. When she and her brother was young, their parents gave them a very solid grounding in their racial identity. Patton said:

“I don’t like it when people go too far with the mixed-race thing. My mom is one of the strongest, smartest women I know. And she said: ‘Listen, the world sees you as Black and that’s what you are. There is no mixed-race this or that.’ The fact of the matter is, White people are not accepting me [as] one of their own. I am Black, and that’s how I was raised. Period. My father felt the same way,” she says.

Patton’s absolute clarity about her racial identity didn’t mean that she shoved her mother’s heritage off the table. In fact:

“It didn’t mean that I didn’t love my mother, that she wasn’t 50 percent of me. But the community that was going to embrace me was my people: Black people.”

Still, as a fair-skinned Black woman, and one who attended a racially mixed high school, Patton felt challenged to prove her racial allegiance. For her, that came in the form of being vice president of the Black Student Group, a public affirmation of pride and comfort in her Blackness. “I know there’s a new way of thinking of ‘mixed race,’ but I don’t personally like that. I actually think that is a way to separate yourself from Black people, and there’s a long history of feeling superior because [of] light skin or straight hair,” she says. “I don’t go for that one bit.”

Kudos to Patton’s mother for grounding her kids in their identity, and telling them the honest truth about how the world with see them and embrace them. It must have taken a lot for a White woman to practically place her kids, so to speak, in a racial-social group outside her own. I can see why Patton describes her mother in such glowing terms.

The very last article in May’s Ebony is a he said/she said essay from Stephen and Patricia Blessman, a Latte Cafe type of couple. It’s about how they met, married and started a family. Their story is touching, and guess where the connection happened? Her hairdresser—his friend—introduced them. I’m declaring it now: any guy who wants to meet an eligible black woman needs to walk into a salon or beauty supply store. This is the second interracial marriage for Stephen Blessman, whose first wife was also Black.

 

If you’ve never heard of Jones magazine, you will soon. It just made its national launch after a five-year run as Houston’s premier fashion, beauty, travel and lifestyle guide for affluent African-American women. I had walked out of my office building after a long day at my magazine, and was about to book it up the block to my train when I spotted the magazine locked behind the display case of a newsstand. Which was closed! I tried two other newsstands until I finally came across one that hadn’t closed down yet. I asked that vendor to open his display case, so he could sell it to me.

It was worth the effort. Jones scored big points for putting Veronica Webb on the cover, and getting magazine luminary Amy Dubois Barnett to write the feature story. I remember Veronica Webb from my high school days, and always remembered her as a woman of substance, a beauty who could also think, reason and write. I refuse to believe that this stunning woman with two daughters is 45 years old, though. Must be a misprint. I think Veronica Webb’s ex-husband, George E. Robb, Jr., is white, but I’m not going to stay up for long hours researching that.

I remember when British actress Thandie Newton appeared on the cover of Town & Country, sitting in what seemed like a garden, smiling that curly-Q smile of hers and I think she was holding an apple. Commentators noted the fact that she was the first black woman to appear on the cover of Town & Country, hinting that this was some sign of social progress among the apex of America’s social elite. Ha! As much as I respect and admire Thandie Newton, she’s biracial, which in my mind is a cop out on the part of a magazine’s leadership that couldn’t commit to someone equally worthy, more representative of most black women, and who have an undisputed regal bearing, like Phylicia Rashad or San Francisco’s ubersocialite Pamela Joyner. Newton and all the other women are completely blameless in this, of course. But the July 2004 cover of T&C underscores the way that mainstream white culture decides to include other cultures.

First the light-skinned ones …

How redundant. So tiresome.

At any rate, Tracey Ferguson, the editor in chief of Jones, has really hit on something special. Other magazines like Essence continue to appeal to our ambitions, always pushing black women toward affluence.  Jones markets itself to black women, not necessarily celebrities, who have already arrived. Since Thandie Newton’s appearance in Town & Country, I don’t remember seeing any other black woman featured on its cover. Maybe I missed them, but it doesn’t matter. That title never could get my attention at the newsstands. Too stuffy to inspire even my aspirational, curious eye for decorating and shopping. Maybe now it won’t matter. Instead of waiting around for establishment blue blood publications to pay heed to accomplished and refined black women, I can just look to Jones‘ commentary on elevated black culture. I just hope it doesn’t bore me to death with a parade of celebrities on the cover. But who knows? It seems to be a foregone conclusion among magazine publishers that only actresses, singers and models can sell a magazine cover on a newsstand.

Ms. Ferguson is really keeping herself busy. She runs the magazine, and leads the cast of a reality TV show on Centric TV, called “Keeping Up with the Joneses.” It’s about her life as a mother, friend and businesswoman, and her bid to take the publication national. You can view episodes of  the show if you visit the Centric TV web site. I tried to embed a couple of videos, but couldn’t do it, so you’ll have to take the trip over there.  In episode 2, Ms. Ferguson, also widow of Gary Ferguson, who was white, talks about the pain of losing her husband. It sounded like they had a solid relationship, one where he encouraged her to shine and make her dreams happen. I hope she is on her way to healing.

I will definitely be a faithful follower of the developments over at Jones magazine. Despite the drastic loss in ad revenue that glossy magazines have suffered during the Great Recession, I think the magazine medium will always last. And as a writer I always hope that magazines thrive so I’ll continue to have professional options!

Important note: Tracey Ferguson herself looks like she could be a cover model—way too young to be a mother of two teenagers. They say black don’t crack, but between Tracey and Veronica this is ridiculous!

Time Out for Discipline

Isn’t this a pretty little chair? What mommy wouldn’t want a beautifully decorated “time out” seat as a way to firmly, but stylishly, reinforce the rules of good conduct? That’s what I thought when I bought it, but Baby took one look at it and decided that it was her new step stool. She pushed it across the floor. She picked it up and carried it. She brought it over to our big windows, so she could stand on the seat and look outside. The first time she did that, she gave me a huge smile. “Thanks mom!”

So I took away the beautifully decorated “time out” chair, which she protested, loudly. She’ll get it back when she understands that it’s not a toy. Or maybe I should have understood that the chair is not a serious discipline tool, and left it in the store.

So it is with our discipline routine. I think I’m being serious, while Baby just toys with me. Take the Sunday Showdown, for instance. She threw me for a loop on Sunday when she threw a shrieking tantrum in the Lord’s house. But not in the crying room, where one would expect that kind of behavior, and where she’s spent so much time that I’m almost on a first name basis with the mothers of other restless tots. The reason for her fit? Me. I had picked her up from the nursery, where the teacher was delighted to report that she had a good day. That means she behaved so well that I didn’t have to be summoned from the sanctuary to check her out of the nursery and bring her to the crying room. So after picking her up, I carried her from the back of the church to the grand foyer, and set her down so I could rest and organize her diaper bag. And anyway, I had hurt my shoulder on Saturday after some overzealous gardening. Baby wasn’t ready for me to put her down, however. After a brief, but strong and definite windup, she threw herself on the floor of the large entry hall and let out a peal that had never before been done in public. She wanted me to pick her up, and she meant it! Anyone who is anyone, including one of my friends from Bible study, could see and hear the adorable but petulant little girl, and pity the mama who spoils her by picking her up every time she cries.

I did pick her up—right after a brief word (stop!) about polite behavior in public.  She stopped short for a second, but because I wasn’t in the mood for a lecture, I just picked her up. She stopped crying right away, and the more experienced moms nearby shook their heads knowingly. One of them is from my Bible study group, and without being mean or judgmental, she said Baby was spoiled.

My friend from Bible study is right: Baby is spoiled, but I haven’t turned her into a brat. Baby will cry incessantly when she’s hungry or teething, but she generally good-natured. I always hug her when she wants, snuggle when she wants, and try to get her to communicate all her needs to me as well as she can, so I can get right on the case.  But I realized that Baby, Hubby and I have some work to do in the area of discipline. I indulge Baby on all those things I just mentioned, but we have gone through many an exercise where I tell her to stop that behavior that’s not nice and be a good girl. And she does. I just hope we can raise a child who knows she can absolutely count on getting everything from us when she needs them, whether its hugs and snacks or firm and reasonable boundaries.

My first stop is probably going to be reading this article about a new study that says spanking only makes kids more aggressive later in life. I’ll have to refute that. Mommie Dearest (if you only knew) never hesitated to hit me in public or private, with a borrowed leather belt or one of her own, with her back hand or a slipper, for whatever reason that got into her head. And aside from when someone pushes my last button for the 50th time, I don’t go around picking fights. I’ll never be the same kind of mother to Baby that Mommie Dearest was to me, but you can bet that I won’t apologize to anyone, PhD or not, for the rare and well-placed bottom swat if Baby tries something like … running out into a busy intersection. Or dangling a younger sibling out the window. Or lighting matches in the coat closet (like Hubby and his broker Malcolm). These are real stories, accompanied by accounts of hearty spankings and “I never did that stuff again.”

A Lady on the Cover and Freaks Between the Sheets

Sometimes women really disappoint me, putting all their bimbosity on full global display. Obviously, I’m not talking about this striking cover shot capturing Grace Kelly at the height of her radiance. Here, and throughout the inside photo spread, she exudes all the iconic style that this feature article goes on about for several pages. It certainly didn’t paint her as the purest, chastest virgin throughout, but what separated her from the freak show in the next feature was that she possessed a quality in desperately short supply in modern American society. Discretion. Scruples about whom she saw, how far she went with them, and who knew her business.

Grace Kelly was totally different from the excuses for women in the next feature article. That story is an attempt to analyze the mind of Tiger Woods, through the objects of his obscene philadering. I can’t call these women Tiger’s “mistresses,” because even that word seems too good for them, given the foul, trashy ways in which they carried on. What’s really bizarre is that despite all the armies of reporters swarming his life right now, all the talk about him not using protection while he cheated on his wife with all these women, that there haven’t been any reports of out-of-wedlock babies and paternity suits.

It’s bad enough that these women are a bunch of brazen home wreckers, shamelessly publicizing their tarty misdeeds out in the streets, but they are obviously severely delusional and expect us to believe a lot of silly things about the Woodses. One woman claimed that Mr. and Mrs. Woods were never affectionate in public and there were never any pictures of the two of them in their house. Dream on. And she described how Tiger Woods never spent a lot of money on her. Oh, but he once bought her a chicken wrap sandwich from Subway. And they are their sandwiches over beer—which he guzzled straight out of the bottle—right before they fornicated. Unbelievable.

The article goes on and on, a runway of pathetic women posing nude and trying to stay in the limelight long enough to cash in and pay for their boob jobs. Honestly, I haven’t read the whole article and I’m not sure that I will. It’s an absolute travesty that this parade of females threw themselves at this billionaire lech, obviously with high hopes of either dethroning the first Mrs. Woods, getting knocked up with his baby and living off of the hush money (or filing a paternity suit and wringing the publicity for all it’s worth) or being a kept woman. But they got nothing except tawdry back room encounters from this man. So with no material gain to show for trying to monetize their femininity, they’re reduced to posing nude for Vanity Fair.

Let’s set aside all of the racial subtexts of a so-called black man running around having sex with every trashy white woman in sight. It’s the wrong interracial combination for this blog and it insults white women with brains and integrity. Honestly, I’m relieved that no black women thus far have been identified as part of his cross-country Fornication Fest. We have enough on our shoulders without Tiger Woods treating any one of us like we’re common. And I refuse to call this fool a black man. If there is one thing aside from his talent that I liked about Tiger Woods, it’s the fact that he acknowledged his diverse racial heritage. Calling him black would be the worst case of the stupid one-drop rule I’ve ever seen. In any case, he is not black. I know too many decent black men to include him in that club. The Caublasians, whoever they are, can have him, and all his kooties, too!