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My Complicated Relationship with Virginia

Posted by JD on Tuesday, April 13, 2010 , under | comments (9)

A fresh-faced Allen Iverson 
Last night I watched the 30 for 30 documentary on ESPN about Allen Iverson. It extensively covered race relations in Newport News and Hampton as the filmmaker revisited Iverson's 1993 conviction.  Iverson was involved in a bowling alley fight in which he was accused of hitting a 23 year old white women over the head with a chair. He was subsequently tried as an adult and sentenced to 5 years. He was later pardoned by former Virginia Governor Wilder, the first and only black Governor Virginia has ever had.

I left Virginia right after turning 18 and have never lived there again as an adult. But looking at the documentary brought up a lot of memories of growing up in Virginia--in particular, memories of the racism, both direct and indirect, that me and my friends faced as kids, teens, and young adults.

I grew up in the same area of Virginia as Iverson, an area Virginians refer to as Hampton Roads or the 7 cities (Norfolk, Newport News, Hampton, Suffolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, and Virginia Beach.) The area has spawned athletes such as Iverson, Michael Vick, Plaxico Burress, Dre Bly, Alonzo Mourning, and Bruce Smith and musical stars from the Neptunes and Teddy Riley to Missy and Timbaland.

It's an interesting area in which to grow up. The cities all oddly connect in some way. There's fierce pride in the people, both for the area in which they live and for our country both then and now. As the documentary pointed out, its not uncommon to see confederate flags fly alongside American flags. The confederacy is never far from the mind whether you pass the tombstones of people who fought in the civil war,  drive near the barely marked spot in which Nat Turner led this famous slave rebellion, or if you're sitting behind a Ford truck on 30 inch wheels sporting a confederate bumper sticker in between others that read OBX and Dale Earnhardt--we'll never forget.

 Most of my memories growing up involve super hot summers spent working in the gardens, picking pecans, riding bikes, watching the boys play football, and happily eating animals that today I wouldn't even consider tasting.

But there are also memories of schoolmates who didn't "talk to black people" or teachers who made it quite obvious that they didn't believe that black kids were as smart as white kids. Cashiers who threw your money on the counter instead of putting in your hand and times when we were followed so closely around my mom got angry and left the store without buying anything leaving all her items in the cart.

But I also remember kindness from many of those confederate flag wavers. White people who might not marry you or invite you to dinner, but would bring you extra wood for your fireplace or fish from their trip on the boat.

There are a lot of people who can't understand the fragile dynamics between blacks and whites who live in areas of America where racism is both institutionalized AND VISIBLE. They think that somehow the parts of America in which racism is institutionalized but not readily identifiable encompass people who are somehow more evolved or racially sensitive. That's not necessarily true.

This month when Virginia's new Governor decided, as one of his first acts of note since election, to make April Confederate History month, most of the people I know in Virginia weren't even phased. The decision got more interest and comment from blacks and whites inside the beltway where I live than in the swamps of Suffolk where I'm from. I think that says a lot about casual attitude many have come to view Virginians' relationship with one another and with the country at large.

Virginia is essentially three States, all with their own distinct history, culture, and way of dealing, or not dealing with race. While I'm proud of the parts of my State's culture that made me tough and taught me the importance of helping a stranger, I struggle with those aspects that both under educated me and taught me too much too soon. Virginia will always be special to me no matter its voting color or Govenor, but my mind can't help but drift to the Iversons I grew up with who never got a break and the punishing system that shows no sign of changing direction.

Where Are The Men Who Like Body Hair on Women??

The NY Times decided to tackle the issue of female grooming, specifically, removal of hair.

I don't have to tell you that the article was partly spurred by comedienne Mo'Nique's furry limbs. But she's not the only one.

Over the past two years, I have complained about what I personally perceive as an epidemic of mustaches on black women. Everywhere I go, I witness it. There was one week last year, where every place I went, I saw an older (over 40) black woman who had a full grown mustache. I now work with two black women who have mustaches. I know that hair removal has typically not been something people did in the south, especially in the lower echelons of society but I can't help but make a frowny face when I see a woman sporting her elevated testosterone.

When I asked one mustache-laden woman who shalt remain nameless why she doesn't remove it, she said it was never a big deal for her. She also said that she had a long-term boyfriend who used to marvel at her mustache and compliment her saying that he can't get his to lay like that.

No, I'm not making this up.

I also used to work with a woman who was GORGEOUS and really well-dressed. I used to admire her style except those days when she'd wear skirts that showed of gams that had never been introduced to nair, veet, razors, or wax.

I was grossed out...but...I don't date women...that makes me wonder, where are the men who love, or at least don't mind, hair on a woman's body?

I'm not saying that women should groom to suit men, although I'm pretty sure that my grooming habits are in part to do with attracting the opposite sex. I always assumed that men liked trimmed public areas, smooth legs, and hairless underarms on women. But apparently I'm mistaken...or is this a generational issue? Or does it vary so much from man to man that women should just do their own thing without concern about what men think?

In the NY Times article, only women's perspectives were gathered. I suppose there's nothing wrong with  giving women total and final say over their bodies (how empowering!). But, something just seems...incomplete without the male perspective on this. Especially since women DO comment on male body hair e.g. men who shave their legs are a no as are men with hairy backs (I'm generalizing). I've been also been known to express dismay at men who grow and then display evidence of taco meat on their chests whereas other women see a hairy chest on a man as a sign of virility.

I guess what I'm wondering is, should we women bother trimming the various hedges on our bodies or is it okay for me to let the three hairs that keep growing on my chin stick around?

Read the NY Times article here:

It Ain't Easy Being a V! When Diet Conflicts with Socializing

Posted by JD on Monday, April 12, 2010 , under | comments (1)

In order to deal with my increasing inability to complete even the smallest tasks, I am improving my diet based on suggestions that are typically given to people with AD(H)D. Veganism and vegetarianism are two lifestyles that are promoted for dealing with ADD symptoms, in addition to reduction/elimination of sugar and chocolate among other changes.

I have eliminated all meat from my diet— yes, even fish. Apparently, fish is just as important to eliminate as the mercury levels in fish have risen to levels that make a lot of dietary experts uncomfortable. I am also slowly eliminating dairy products. AS of now, the only time I consume dairy is when it’s used to make something e.g. bread or chocolate. Luckily, I rarely eat those items so I’m doing pretty well.

Over the past couple weeks I’ve decided to eat out/go out way less than normal because I don’t want to find myself getting off track by making excuses (well, It’s just ONE cube of sausage off ONE kabob, oh that little bit of bacon on that potato won’t hurt…and so on). I think this has been a good thing because now, my meat cravings have all but subsided. Every now and then I get a KILLER craving for the Charleston Crab soup at Harris Teeter but between my dedication to this diet and the $5 asking price, I haven’t broken yet.

Last night was my first time going out to dinner since I got serious about this whole vegan thing. Did I just say vegan? Somewhere there must be some obscure Virginia law that prohibits people raised south of the 703 zip code from eliminating red meat and dairy from their diets. I’m pretty sure veganism is a vaguely unpatriotic, elitist, northern construct, but nevertheless I push on..I will say, however, that 4th of July with my family should be really interesting when I decline to taste the ribs.

Where was I?

Oh yeah, I went out to dinner last night. Mie N Yu in Georgetown was the place. My friend’s friend wanted to go to Georgetown (in the midst of tourist season, no less) after our original plan was stymied by death.

We were supposed to meet at AAtish on the Hill, a great Indian/Pakistani restaurant with plenty of vegetarian options, most notably their HUGE, perfectly crafted and fried samosas and the Malai Kofta, my personal favorite (lightly fried chunks of minced veggies in a spicy sauce served with basmati rice that almost makes me forget I really don’t like rice). When we arrived at AAtish there was a note on the door that said the quaint little eatery was closed due to death of the owner’s father--may he RIP.

So we headed all the way across town from SE to NW winding through DC’s ridiculous traffic and all the roads closed due to the Nuclear Summit currently taking place. I’d never been to Mie N Yu before, but I’m always up for something new and something ‘ethnic.’

The atmosphere in the restaurant is AMAZING (Morroccan inspired, cozy, great colors, lots of pillows, and couches), so is the bar, and so are the drinks…and so is the service. The menu, however, is NOT vegetarian friendly. Only two veggie dishes were listed on the menu and I’m not sure if it’s my relative ignorance about Mediterranean food or what, but it seemed like both dishes were just bones thrown to the elite and unpatriotic crowd of which I now belong.

I had two drinks (the cherry blossom and the North star), got drunk because I’d hadn’t eaten anything all day but a small salad and some soy nuggets. I did order the Itsusu tofu dish, but the tofu wasn’t fully marinated; therefore, it tasted like nothing. Actually, it tasted worse than nothing. It tasted like nothing that should have tasted like something which is, in actuality, worse than nothing at all.

To make a long story short, I ate bread (delicious bread but bread nonetheless), hummus, drank alcohol and left $40 poorer. $52 poorer if you count what we paid for parking.

This was a reminder that changing my lifestyle is not going to be easy. I’ve never been a fussy person but now when I go out I’m going to have to make my dietary requirements known lest I leave another restaurant drunk and starving.