with Lynne and Leslie
Category Archives: celebrity

I Wish There Was A Show Called “American Do What You Love And Get Paid For It”

by SweetMidlife

Lynne here!

Leslie and I watch a lot of “American Idol”, and this is the last season, so they are talking a lot about their legacy and how awesome the show is, and want to talk about Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson, its’ biggest stars, like all of the time. And I get that. Those ladies are the biggest stars that the show has produced, and the show also heavily touts hit-making alumni Phillip Phillips, Chris Daughtry, and Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson. And that makes sense, because the show is called “American IDOL”, which means that they want to produce people who we literally want to be. But we have short attention spans, so the people who we were all nuts about last month kinda fall away to make space for the next new thing.  I was really happy when a few weeks ago, as part of their “You used to really love this show” extravaganza, the show brought back former contestants to sing duets with current ones. Some were ones who had several radio hits after the show, like Daughtry and Jordin Sparks and Fantasia, and some were ones who have had careers in other venues, like Tony-nominee Constantine Maroulis or Haley Reinhart, who has been featured in a bunch of videos by Postmodern Jukebox where they put pop songs to jazz beats. Watch her, She’s amazing. So I got all excited when the show said that these folks were coming back, because I wanted them to highlight that success doesn’t always look hit records. But no. While the show brought on a big display commemorating all of Daughtry’s platinum-selling accomplishments, what it basically did was have the others talk about what they learned from the show, for the show’s sake. And I get that. Talking about all the amazing things you birthed is awesome. But I think that the show missed a great opportunity to send a heartfelt message that could add to the well-being of the young people of America, which I know isn’t their top priority, as well as really secure their legacy as the springboard for greatness, which is their concern.

And that’s this.

As wonderful as it must be to be a mega-superstar, there is something to be said for being able to make a living doing what you love, even if it’s on a more modest level, and this is what “American Idol” has done for many of its former contestants, like Taylor Hicks and Kris Allen, who aren’t burning up the charts currently (although both each have had hits), but have used their time on the show to have, well, careers in music. As in people pay them to sing. As in they don’t have to have second jobs. Because enough people want to hear them that they can live pretty nice lifestyles doing exactly what they love to do. I am not hating on Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson, because those ladies have earned the careers that they have. I admire them. But obviously, everybody can’t be at that level and sustain it, and it is bothersome that we chew people up and get over them so quickly, that in the public’s perception, if you aren’t selling out stadiums, you must be living in your mama’s basement cooking grilled cheese on a hot plate. There is a lot of space in between there, and “Idol” alums occupy every rung of that, with many of those folks occupying the higher rungs of that ladder, which means that they earn a living singing, and they appreciate the platform that they were afforded. Most working musicians, especially the ones who were gigging before their “Idol” days, recognize that a place in this show can make you in a big way, but that it can also be a springboard into playing bigger venues and having your own bus instead of taking the Greyhound. Leslie interviewed Phillip Phillips the year that he won the show, and he told her something that has stuck with me. He said that at first, he didn’t have his eye on the title of American Idol, which he went on to win. No, his initial goal was to make the Top 10, because those performers get to go on tour, and he knew that he would have a job for the summer. Don’t miss that. One of the biggest stars to come out of the show’s later years knew that having a well-paid job touring around was a huge blessing, because it offered you the visibility to work that into something more.

Most "Idol" alumsdon't have to play music in their mom's basement anymore, unlike my kid. He is only 3, though.

Most “Idol” alumsdon’t have to play music in their mom’s basement anymore, unlike my kid. He is only 3, though.

And many “Idol” contestants have done that, including the ones I mentioned above, as well as Allison Iraheta, who made it to the #4 spot the year that Adam Lambert and Kris Allen were on. She has her own band called Halo Circus, and also sings backup vocals on “Idol”. And I know that some people look at that and say, “You sing back-up? That must be a letdown. Too bad you aren’t famous.” But she has a job. Singing. And although she likes singing her own music, I am sure, her time on the show has given her a highly visible regular gig, one which many singers would love to have. That is an accomplishment. I am an actor, and the periods of my life where I was only acting were brilliant. I was never famous, but I was able to eat doing what I adored. And shoot, that is everything. That’s a good lesson for everybody, because if only famous people are successful, that means that there is no room for anyone else, which means that everyone else is unworthy, which I refuse to accept. Excelling is awesome, and making lots of money is, I am sure, a wonderful thing, but also living the dream of being JUST a performer is up there. And I honestly think that if “Idol” bragged on the careers that their less-famous alumni went on to, it would make the show look better in the long run, because they would be able to define what success looks like. But since they, and we, are so hung up on “Idol”-dom, they missed a chance to say that they produce people in the big leagues, meaning that they produced people with careers. In music. And to me, that is brag-worthy.

 


The twins and Dolly wish you a “Hard Candy Christmas”

by SweetMidlife

Merry Christmas! This is Leslie, and behalf on Lynne, our family, humanity, the 1984 Duran Duran fanckub, people who love cheese and Grumpy Cat, we would like to wish you a happy holiday. And we’d like to do it with the help of Miss Dolly, and some sad hookers.

You see, Miss Mona and the former employees of the Chicken Ranch in 1982’s “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” are parting ways, because…well, it’s a long story. And even though they are not a traditional or even legal family (or involved in legal, family things) they are very unhappy to have to leave each other. But Miss Mona, who is Dolly, tells them that sometimes they have to get through things even if it’s hardscrabble, like a Christmas so thread-bare that you only get hard candy for Christmas. You’ll be fine and dandy.

So whether today finds you flush or flushed, hardy or hapless, go hug someone you love. Or call them. You won’t let sorrow bring you way down. Tell ’em Dolly.


Amy Poehler and the myth of being nice

by SweetMidlife

yes please

This is Leslie, and I would like to talk to you about a four-letter word, one I have been sometimes proud to be called, and, at other times, wanted to slap people about the face in a vigorous fashion should it be tossed in my direction.

Nice.

I do not mean the, well, nice definition of nice, which is cordial, courteous and personable. I mean the kind of “nice” that really means “pushover” or “selfless to the point of martyrdom” or “always willing to acquiesce to the requests of others, no matter how last-minute, unreasonable or inconvenient, for fear of people thinking you’re not nice.”

This kind of nice – and if you’re human, and almost certainly if you are a woman, you may have had thrust upon you – is almost a dare, a velvet cudgel that in the most sweetly inescapable way says (always smiling) “Can you do me a favor?” or “I know this is last minute but” or “I hope I’m not putting you out but” and then proceeds to put you out, all the while making it almost impossible for you to say ‘no’ at risk of the asker and other people not liking you anymore.

Amy Poehler has no use for such idiocy, and that attitude is all over the refreshingly blunt “Yes Please,” a combination memoir/life manual where she covers everything from her discovery of improv comedy to her “comedy wife” Tina Fey to the joys of faking inappropriate behavior with Justin Timberlake. But a recurring theme of the book, which I’m almost done listening to on Audible.com, is that you don’t owe anybody your dignity, and if a request is intrusive, unreasonable, presumptive or just something you don’t want to do, you get to say “No” and move on. And screw ’em if that’s not OK.

Poehler is probably most famous for playing  Pawnee, Indiana’s sincere-to-a-fault, people-pleasing public servant Leslie Knope on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation,” and she’s clear that she’s just acting – “I’m not that nice,” she writes candidly. And she’s not talking about being purposely rude as a mission statement, but about not allowing other’s expectations to color her life, in a way that a lot of us – especially, I think, women – have been raised to believe trumps all, even our own plans. You’ve been there, every time you’re asked to be on a church committee you know you don’t have time for, or that sweet last-minute request for bake sale items when you’ve gotta make dinner, or that “quick” favor of an errand that’s really not that quick. And you want to say “No.”

But you’re so nice.

From not accepting screenplays rudely dropped in her lap while she’s sleeping on a train (“It’s called ‘I Don’t Know Because I Threw It Away'”) to just saying “No” when strangers approach her on the street to ask her a question (“Nobody needs to ask me a question”), Poehler writes of the sometimes painful road to realizing that the older you get, the less it matters what other people think of you. And if people thinking you are “nice” is more important than the stuff you gotta do, you’re a sucker.

Poehler doesn’t exonerate herself from her own idiocy and the importance of being nice, as in a good human being, when it’s about owning your own stuff: In a particularly painful passage she talks of inadvertently mocking a real-life disabled woman in a “Saturday Night Live” sketch that she assumed was fictional, because she was busy getting ready for the show and just never checked with her writers to find out. When she gets an emotionally charged letter from Oscar-winning actor Chris Cooper and his wife Marianne, who directed the movie the sketch mocks, that mentions that the young lady was actually watching the sketch live, she attempts to rationalize her behavior by deciding they’re overreacting, that it wasn’t her fault, and then throws the letter away. It’s not until five years later that she attempts to contact the Coopers through mutual friend and director Spike Jonze, and hears back that they were disappointed it took so long and don’t need an apology at this late date, but offer contact info for the young lady she hurt. (She receives a gracious note from her.)

In that case, Poehler needed to have been “nice,” as in be an adult, and she acknowledges it. She even admits that sometimes in her candor, she lets that “niceness” urge put her in unfair situations, like the “creepy guy” producer who, unable to talk her into re-recording an entire speech that the tech crew messed up, asks her for a hug to make him feel better about being wrong, she submits, even though she doesn’t hug back, because it’s easier than saying “No.”

A great man I know named Pastor Dave Pinckney once told me that it is Godly to say no sometimes, meaning that you can’t be of any use to anybody, heavenly or otherwise, if you’re too overbooked to do your job well. Being “nice” or making people think you are isn’t worth screwing it all up. I’ve been there. Amy Poeher’s been there. And we both know that sometimes, the nicest thing, to yourself, is to say “No, please.”


Boy, that’s a large mouse: Our kid’s first Disney trip

by SweetMidlife
"You see, little boy, this big white glove is magic. I wave it and a gazillion dollars appears. I got it like that.

“You see, little boy, this big white glove is magic. I wave it and a gazillion dollars appears. I got it like that.

Leslie here! So my husband, mom and the kid we hang out with made an important American childhood pilgrimage that has no significance whatsoever at the moment to that kid, as he is 14 months old and hasn’t quite mastered forks yet- We visited Walt Disney World over the Thanksgiving holiday, specifically Epcot Center and Disney Hollywood Studios, because it’s not far from our house, because close friends were staying in the area from out of town, and because nothing says “holiday” like trying to figure out how close you can get your kid to the giant, giant rodent in the Santa suit before he or she loses their crap completely and starts desperately trying to escape.

Donald and his handler navigate the paparazzi and the over-sugared kids trying to hurl themselves at him.

Donald and his handler navigate the paparazzi and the over-sugared kids trying to hurl themselves at him.

Honestly, it went a lot better than we’d imagined – Kid is fairly chill and social if you give him food, and the parks, while crowded, weren’t the insane asylums of over-sugared tiny demons and disappointed parents determined to wring every magic moment the second mortgage they took out for this vacation that we’d expected. Sure, we saw some of those folks, but we had enough space to steer clear. Kid is just figuring out who Mickey Mouse is – we have a relatively large one in our living room – and again had no real idea of where he was other than a large, loud place with lots of colors and music and people who can’t stop gushing about how cute he is (he gets this a lot.)

sergio

So is he silent…in Italian? How would you know?

So what did we get out of it, besides lighter wallets, sore feet and the irrational desire to belt the next person who sings “Let It Go” at me? (OMG but are they ever overdoing the “Frozen” thing up in there) We got to shamelessly dive headlong into giddy sentimentality, to wake up our own inner goofy kiddies who can’t get enough of this stuff, to have some surprisingly good Moroccan food at Epcot, and to know that one day, we can show Kid the photos and tell him he got to meet a nine foot-tall Goofy and he barely flinched, because he’s awesome.

Somewhere, hidden behind the fake English village, Lady Gaga is planning her Father Christmas costume, although hers will have a rhinestone staff and a muuch shorter coat.

Somewhere, hidden behind the fake English village, Lady Gaga is planning her Father Christmas costume, although hers will have a rhinestone staff and a muuch shorter coat.


Solange, my sister and me: Rocking our natural hair down the aisle

by SweetMidlife

Leslie here!

So the talk of the Internet in the past few days – well, some of the talk, anyway – has been about Solange Knowles and her fierce, fierce wedding style. Lynne and I were so impressed, we were both wondering if we could get remarried so we could rock fly wedding capes. And that all-white attire rule for the guests made everyone look like they were posing for some lost ’90s TV movie called “A Very EnVogue Wedding,” a videotape which I would totally have owned.

So caught up was I in the capes and the monochromatic wedding guests that I plum near missed another aspect that some people found notable in both good and hideous ways: Solange’s gorgeous, gorgeous wedding Afro. Although she’s straightened her hair occasionally, Miss Knowles’ tall proud crown of queenly poof is her signature, so I didn’t even notice it in the wedding photos, other than that it added to her fierceness.

And why shouldn’t she wear her hair natural? She’s a beautiful woman. Why shouldn’t she look like her on her most special day?

Apparently, some people disagree. Those people are cordially invited to…well….obviously their opinions are of no tangible use to Miss Knowles, who is a diva and don’t care. But as the young lady above can attest , the Web was wild with ignorant folks who had rather strong objections to Solange having not straightened her hair before saying “I do,” either because it’s not fancy or polished enough for such an auspicious occasion, or because they just don’t see it as polished enough for work, or the club, or yoga class or taking out the trash. You know, at all.

The Huffington Post story the beautiful Charnel Grey references in the video makes the same point – that it’s annoying to have to defend the way the hair comes out of your head, to black people, to white people, to anybody. A) It’s not your business B) We’re done changing for others. If we want a ‘fro, we’ll wear a ‘fro. If we want a weave, we’ll get a weave. Mind your own business and your own daggone hair.

Obviously, this is a topic Lynne and I both feel strongly about, because we both have natural hair – I with an Afro, and Lynne with her dreads. And having both been natural for a decade before getting married, neither of us even considered straightening for the day. I had thought about doing some sort of crazy updo, but at the end of the day, I let it ‘fro out even more than usual, and just went with it. I looked like the best version of me – better dress, better makeup, better jewelry. And a better ‘fro.

This pic wasn't their first date, but this was also a memorable one :).

A ‘fro for a fancy Palm Beach wedding

Lynne, meanwhile, let her dreads grow out and had them twisted into the most exquisite updo-drop-crown whatever that was. (She also rocked a veil, a rhinestone headband AND a big ol’ orange flower, to the objection of some people who thought it was too much. Knowing Lynne they should have known it was just enough.)

Loc'ing in on love.

Loc’ing in on love.

One of Lynne’s friends was talking about the whole Solange situation and, told that we’d both worn our hair natural for our weddings, suggested we write something about it, which got Lynne to tell her a story about another bride who wore the most smashing mod daisy-covered wedding dress for her 1970 wedding. And under the Minnie Mouse-esque veil, she wore a sleek Mia Farrow pixie…

Except that the day before she’d been wearing a ‘fro. But she bent to pressure from some older family members that it wasn’t appropriate, not special enough, for a wedding. Our Daddy told us that when he saw her at the rehearsal dinner his first thought was “Who’s that?” Because his bride was supposed to be wearing a ‘fro. Not for political reasons. Not for fashion reasons. But because that’s how she wore her hair, in her life as her, and that’s how she’d wanted to wear it when she married the love of her life. (Her sister and maid of honor, the late Aunt Ann, made up for it with her own Afro. Fly, fly fly).

Again, our mother looked amazing on her wedding day. But she didn’t look like she wanted to because she accepted the pressure that she had to change herself to be proper. I suspect she wouldn’t do that now. But as for you and your own wedding – if you want to get tracks, flatiron, shave your head, whatever, do it. This is not a political speech. It’s a hug, a cry of love, that says “IT’S YOUR WEDDING. DO YOU. BE THE MOST EXCELLENT SPLENDID VERSION OF YOU. NOT OF WHAT YOUR MAMA OR YOUR SISTERS OR THE INTERNET SAY. BE YOU.”

And then you’ll never be more beautiful. Trust us.


Not sure how to feel about: “Girlfriend Intervention”‘s black fairy godmothers

by SweetMidlife

I’m afraid this “Lifetime” might be wasting mine.

Leslie here!

Because I write about entertainment, pop culture, and various entertaining goings-on and hooha, I have a lot of interest in news about upcoming movies and TV shows, both for professional reasons, and because I like knowing what on the horizon might be worth interrupting my steady stream of “People You Do NOT Want To Meet In An Alley In Any Lighting Situation For Reals” on Investigation Discovery (this is not a real show, but you know you’d watch it. Heck, I would.)

You know what is a real show, or at least is going to be? “Girlfriend Intervention,” Lifetime’s new “Queer Eye For The Straight Guy”-esque deal that substitutes pulled-together, savvy (and likely sassy) black women for the pulled-together, savvy and sassy gay men. This is how the press release describes it:

“Four wise, poised and stylish African-American women, who, in each episode, help a white sister seeking a complete makeover to restore her confidence and inner glow.”

Umm…not so fast there, Lifetime Television For Co-Dependents. On the one hand, it’s nice to see a network that considers black women the go-to for style and refinement, unlike, oh, pretty much every other network. (As the home of the black “Steel Magnolias” remake and the Fantasia movie, it’s clear Lifetime values black women and the women who like them as an audience, without weave-pulling).

And if “Girlfriend” matches “Queer Eye” in tone, any tough love and joshing at expense of those being intervened upon will be worth it at the affectionate and successful reveal. I like encouraging togetherness among women (I’m looking at you, Bravo’s “Real Housewives of Ethno-Cultural-Class Stereotypes and Public Shaming.”)

But…(and you knew that there was one)…I’m not sure how to feel about so much of it, because the premise deals in some mule-tired stereotypes that I’m not sure are a good look on anyone. Even the title makes my teeth start itching, because it reminds me of white strangers who, upon meeting me, suddenly go “How you doin’ girlfriend?,” in some weird Southern/Brooklyn/imagined black person accent when I swear I just heard them speaking in proper English sentences that ended in consonants before they turned to me. Umm, one day I might be your girlfriend, as in your good pal. But let’s start with “Leslie,” OK?

Here’s the other thing – that “girlfriend” stuff opens to the door to an otherness that’s at the root of every other comedian on “Def Jam” – the “black people be like this and white people be like this” thing. And yes, there are some truths in all stereotypes, whose exceptions don’t become apparent if the only people that you encounter from another groups are the ones you see on TV. And continues a really, really lazy trope seen everywhere from “Ghost” to “The Help” – that black women exist mostly to teach you a lesson, make you grow as a person and heal your aching heart, until your soul glows and they get back into their magic Escalade and go off to save some other white people, like Atlanta Mary Poppins.

Then there’s the weird message that white women are somehow obviously more clueless about body image, style and getting-it-togetherness than black women, because I know some dang fine white women who are actually my personal “Girl, what is wrong with your nails?” patrol. Is that OK? And how come these “Girlfriend” folks aren’t helping black women, or Latinas or Asians or Native Americans? Is it assumed that we don’t need any help? (Because I don’t want to get too personal, but if I go too long between pedicures my husband starts making random references to “getting that talon attended to.”)

I have a lot of friends who are black and white and Latin and biracial and Indian and Sri Lankan-Australian and Jewish and atheist and whatever else you’ve got. We all help each other. Some of us have strengths that fit stereotypes, and some of us defy definition. We do for each other not because of some ethnically-defined mission to meddle or swoop in. We are friends. We are not each other’s staffs or acolytes or fairy godmothers with no lives other than the one in which we’re of service.

I am gonna check out “Girlfriend Intervention” because I kinda have to now, don’t I? And also because it could prove me wrong. I thought “Queer Eye” was going to be full of gross stereotypes, and although it sometimes was, it was also bold, sweet and gave the world Carson Kressley and my food boyfriend Ted Allen.

I just wish it didn’t have to be another show about clueless white people and the magic black people who live to help them. Because as my husband – sisters need help sometimes, too.


Mary Mary’s Erica Campbell, “modesty”, representing God and giving each other a freaking break

by SweetMidlife

Leslie here, still simply having a wonderful holiday time in the Sweet Midlife northern offices, watching our office assistant eat cereal with his hands. He’s not that good at typing but he’s got the hand cereal thing down.

Like a lot of people facing the end of the year with some changes they’d like to make in the next one, I’ve been seeing a lot of photos of famous folk who have made some changes too, including in the poundage department. One of those folk is Erica Campbell of the gospel duo Mary Mary, a beautiful lady who was introduced to the public when she was younger and heavier, but is now a more svelte, albeit curvy, married adult. She has written publicly about her struggles with weight, and specifically said that her quest to be more fit was not about her public image but to honor and protect the health God gave her, for herself and her family.

Campbell put some photos on Instagram promoting her upcoming solo album, and Sister looks gorgeous. She could also not be any more covered up – She’s wearing a form-fitting white dress with a turtleneck that covers, you know, her neck, with sleeves to her wrist and a hemline falling below her knees, with only her lovely shins, hands and face showing. Yes, the dress shows her curves, because why shouldn’t it? She’s grown. She’s married. She’s beautiful. They’re not sexual. They’re “Here’s me looking my best.”

You would think that the Christian community would clap their hands and celebrate not only her continued success in the business, but also hold Campbell up as an example of how to be healthy and beautiful while upholding recognized standards of appropriateness. (I hesitate to use the word “modesty,” because its modern connotation too often puts the onus on young women to be the bastions of propriety, giving them the responsibility to keep young men honest and blaming the girls and not the guys if things get out of hand. That also negates the girls’ own sexual identities and just focuses on them as tools of the devil or something backwards like that.)

But that applause, if it was there, has been overshadowed by what Bob Geldof might call the clanging chimes of doom, or, as we in the church community call it, much shade.

And I wish I was surprised.

Stacey Woods, a pastor with a large Internet presence, wrote a very public indictment of the photos that I imagine is supposed to be convicting but which seems to be shaming this woman for having a body while claiming to be in the body of Christ. She writes  “This is not ok. Yes, you are a beautiful, curvy woman but no ma’am you are singing the gospel of Jesus Christ. We compel men to come through our love for Jesus, but when we wear things that are distracting, the message is somehow lost and it becomes about us and not about Him.”

Oh, for Pete’s sake. To quote the esteemed “Field of Dreams”‘ James Earl Jones’ Terence Mann reacting to Kevin Costner’s Ray’s indictment of his writing as a wedge in the generation gap between him and his late dad, “It’s not my fault you didn’t play catch with your father!” That means, of course, that whatever stirrings of rebellion and dissent existed between them were already there when Ray read Mann’s work, and wasn’t his fault. And if a man is struggling with his focus on spirituality and a well-shaped woman causes him to stray from an Instagram photo, that’s not her fault. Erica Campbell’s sole purpose in the world is not to stop been from thinking bad thoughts. Her witness as a Christian, and as a person trying to make money as an artist, is also for women who might want to be healthier but still be vibrant, and for her and God. She said herself that being healthier was part of her way to honor God, and if she chooses to show that in a TURTLENECK DRESS DOWN PAST HER KNEES, then your struggle is between you and God. Don’t put that on her.

Lynne writes about her spirituality more than I do on this page, but my relationship with God is something I take very seriously, while still understanding that it is MY RELATIONSHIP. I understand that Erica Campbell chose at an early age, and still chooses, to make her relationship with God public, and to use it to inform others. She is a public person and therefore subject to scrutiny. But…and I’m gonna be real here, because I think we can be, right?…women can be so hard on each other. And it doesn’t change when it’s under the auspices of religion, or race, or national pride. I am sure that Pastor Woods thinks she’s making a statement that will instruct and protect, but by going to that ‘Your job is to not distract men from God” space, she’s negating Sister Campbell’s autonomy as a Christian and as a woman. She also questions her Christian sincerity, which is neither her place or her business.

There’s another thing – people in the black community, and in parts of the black Christian community, are all about telling you your skirt’s too tight but not addressing the obesity that is killing us. Why aren’t we saying “In the name of God, take care of your bodies?” Ruben Studdard, the famously fluffy “American Idol” winner and recent “Biggest Loser” contestant, told me a couple of weeks ago that sometimes we in our community don’t support each other, maybe out of jealousy, and because we project our own struggles onto other people. He recalled hearing people audibly prefer Luther Vandross when he was heavier – “‘So what you’re saying is you like Luther unhealthy,'” Studdard told me.

I want to believe that the admonishment of Pastor Woods, and of others, is about what they believe is a Biblical and cultural duty. And they are entitled to their opinion. Campbell, for her part, has said that she’s sorry she offended people but that she thought the photos were cute and appropriate, and other people, including singer (and Christian attractive person) Yolanda Adams, have given her their support.

As humans, we have complicated reasons for the things that we champion or demonize, and because I don’t know Pastor Woods I can’t get into her head. I do wish that she’d maybe addressed her statements to Campbell personally, or not hung her out as a bad witness to men. This reminds me of the Miley Cyrus “slut-shaming” situation, where women, including me, addressed concerns about what appeared to be her publicly losing her mind in a Twerky, humping, naked flourish. A lot of people were like “What will your young fans think? It’s your responsibility to always be a role model for them and not make them be slutty!” I think that’s stupid – if Miley is the fragile gateway between you and a life of shameful Twerkitude, maybe you need to examine your own soul (and your own butt.) My issue was more that I wasn’t sure this was going to lay a foundation to be taken seriously as a older artist once this stage was over.

But that’s on her, just as Erica Campbell’s career is on her. It’s not on you. And your struggles are not on her. She can be a beacon, but if a stranger is causing you to struggle, don’t look at the pictures. But don’t make their existence your excuse. It’s not their job, and it’s not hers.

What do you think?


On bullying, ball players and not defending mean as the status quo

by SweetMidlife


Leslie here!

I am not the sports expert, in a way that would make me understand the Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito bullying scandal with the Miami Dolphins. The family expert would be my husband, a former high school soccer player and the decorator of our “Jersey Room” featuring the sartorial splendor of the Baltimore Ravens and Baltimore Orioles, as well as  the University of Maryland. I have never been in a professional locker room, or even a collegiate or high school one – the only thing I’ve ever done that qualifies as athletic is running, and that’s in the slowest sense of the word. The only locker room I’m in is at L.A. Fitness, and nobody’s trying to bully you as much as they want to get dressed and go home.

So let me be the first to say that no, I do not understand the intricacies of NFL culture, or the toughening that it takes to put yourself in the line of men who are trying to hurt you for hours, week after week. I can’t tell you what that does to you or what you have to tell yourself to throw yourself out there, because I couldn’t do it.

But I do understand bullying. And when people think that the fault lies with the people who “let themselves” be bullied and not the people who go out of their way to bully people, we have a serious problem.

In other words – if you’d stop bullying me, I wouldn’t have to stop you from bullying me. You have the choice not to bully me. So don’t. It’s that simple.

It happened to me in school, in different ways, several times, from bigger or more popular kids calling me ugly and ridiculing me in the hall because I was weird, to being called a racial slur every day for weeks by a middle school classmate who eventually pressed a stapler into my hand when the teacher left the room, to having a high school classmate (who happened to be a football player) sitting behind me for weeks, calling me “White Girl” because he said I acted white, and threatening to beat me up until I reported it and he was switched to another classroom. Most of the time, the system protected me. Sometimes I just sucked it up and walked faster. Maybe the kids who did that had emotional issues that propelled them. But it sure wasn’t my fault that they did it to me.

As an adult, I understand the factors that make kids mean to each other, and why kids who feel helpless might take that helplessness out on other kids who seem weaker – Jonathan Martin’s former high school coach has said it didn’t surprise him that such an eager to please, talented kid would be an easy target because he isn’t going to necessarily say anything.

So, yeah, maybe a grown man, particularly a big man who makes his living based on his physicality, should be able to say “Back off me.” Maybe he should be able to settle it himself. It seems crazy to take it. But if that guy is in an environment where the younger players are expected to take a certain amount of abuse that’s meant to be harmless, and he takes it for a while to get along, it’s harder to stop it when that crosses the line to extortion or possible threats and harassment. There are conflicting reports about how close Martin and Incognito may have been and how voice mails that appear to be threatening could have been taken out of context. We don’t know.

All we know is that there is obviously a culture that says “It’s OK to go a little rough” and then has problems setting limits, that some players feel comfortable forcing others to give them money, and those players not in power go along with it maybe thinking something worse will happen if they don’t. Do they have to be in that environment? No! And that’s why Martin left. He decided to remove himself, which is what a man – an adult – does. So why is he being called a wimp? He tried to take it and he couldn’t. Where are we as a culture that we look at this situation and say “Stay and be harassed?”

Here’s the things. Kids, and apparently adults, can be mean. And the more power they get, the more they know that no one is going to stop them, they can get meaner. Telling a victim, “Well, it could be worse, shut up about it” is the same twisted logic I was supposed to follow last week when someone stole the case off my phone but left the phone. Wasn’t it better than them stealing the phone?  Sure. But you know what would have been even spiffier? THEM NOT STEALING ANYTHING. It wasn’t OK .

Look, people are going to be mean to you sometimes. Life is not going to be fair. Crappy things are gonna happen and sometimes you have to suck it up. And hard things really do sometimes toughen you. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?

The problem I have is when the status quo protects the thing that’s trying to kill you.


The Shark Tank of your mind: Are you in or out?

by SweetMidlife
How would you tell them what you’re worth?

I was making dinner in the other room, watching the pasta and making it sure it didn’t spill over and ruin my fancy pan, making sure the cat didn’t dart into the room and get scalded with her greedy people food-hunting self, and making sure my husband had something to eat that doesn’t resemble scorched ick.

In this room, I was watching a rerun of this kid completely talking his dream of putting bikini-designing software into malls into the ground, as the entrepreneurs of “Shark Tank” ripped him to shreds. This brave lad and his chum-colored aspirations were in the hands of people who just want to know how much money he was going to make them, and even if he got an offer – which he eventually did – the question he had to ask is how much those aspirations are worth.

What he was worth.

I love this show something fierce, not just because of the excitement of watching experienced business people and young shiny dreamers alike become instant millionaires, or in some cases, crashing and burning on a pyre of nerves, bad planning, worse presentation skills and sometimes fatal hubris, but because it makes me think about my own dreams and aspirations, and what they would be worth to investors.

I’m not sure what product I have to sell, other than myself – I would be the perfect spokeswoman, pundit, morning host and general dancing monkey for pretty much anything that isn’t immoral or fattening. I can also write, speak and dance a mean quickstep, given enough time and powerful enough Spanx. I’m funny and pithy and have a cute husband and a twin. I have cool hair.

I do not think that Mark Cuban and Daymond John are headed to my house right now to make me a cash offer to invest in me being me. But even imagining that this is a possibility gives me good practice for quantifying my worth, fiscally and otherwise. I have been at my current job for more than a decade, and when I negotiate my salary, which I am wont to do from time to time, it’s helpful to be prepared – What am I asking for? How can I prove that I am worth it? Is there a fixed number in my head, and am I willing to either come down off it, or be willing to give even more effort or time in exchange for my employer meeting it?

At the same time, I – and you – need to ask yourself that in your relationships, personal, professional and otherwise. Do I tell my current or potential partner verbally that I’m worth a lot but prove that I undervalue myself by letting them treat me badly? Is the price I pay for the expensive haircut too much for what the quality of the cut and the general foo-foo of the salon? Do I tell the stylist that it’s OK to treat me like a throw rug when they make me wait but I stay, pay and tip them anyway?

On “Shark Tank,” the negotiations last about six minutes, although I’ve been told they can last for hours. So we don’t see all the nuances, but we get the basics – what is being offered, what it’s going to cost both the entrepreneur and the investing Shark or Sharks, and whether they can agree. The ultimate test of the worth of the deal doesn’t come till much later, when it can be quantified whether either side made money.

But the risk, to me, is the important part. What is the entrepreneur willing to gamble or give up? What percentage of their business and profits? What amount of control? There are people who won’t agree until the Sharks promise not to, say, move production from Alabama to China, or who want their packaging to stay intact.

What is it worth to you? What are you worth to you, and to other people? And can you back it up and be proud of it?


Five Minute Friday: “View”

by SweetMidlife

Leslie here!

Go.

“Meeting you with a view to a kill”…

Almost 30 years later, I know that those Duran Duran lyrics don’t really mean much beyond “We are the richest, most awesome and popular band of the day and we got asked to do the latest James Bond theme, and we’ve got to write the name of the movie into the song. It makes no sense, but then again ‘Union of The Snake’ and ‘The Reflex’ weren’t Shakespeare either, and that check cleared, so….Here’s your song!”

That song was sort of a wake-up for me, in that it was the first time I remember acknowledging that the things I was obsessed with were maybe really ridiculous, and still not caring. There is a 13-year-old girl trait that means that you take everything seriously and I took Duran Duran way seriously, arguing the brilliance of their hair, their global, racy videos and the words that sounded glamorous to me, mostly because they came out the mouths of really hot guys.

But the first time I saw the video of “A View To A Kill,” where the band members were gleefully, cheesily running around the Eiffel Tower fake-chasing Roger Moore and Grace Jones around like they were in the movie, my competing thoughts were “They’re so hot!” and “This is really kinda stupid.” And I thought “Wait, I think something Duran Duran did is stupid? Do I still like them?”

And then I thought “It’s OK to like stupid stuff. And I don’t have to justify it. I can just like it.”

That’s a view to learn from.

Stop.

 


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