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Archive for June, 2009

Disclaimer

In my previous posts about celebrity grief, I failed to point out something that some would consider a bit weird, given my stance on public grieving: I don’t watch the news. At all. On television I don’t watch much except reruns of my favorite shows & movies, a few comedies, or a “guilty pleasures” like Bridezillas or something. That’s it. I can’t stand television news and haven’t voluntarily watched it since the election (and the election before that) and maybe a presidential address or two. All the news I get is what I read online.

So, when asked if the media “overdoes” celebrity grief, my answer is an unequivocal “yes!” I haven’t watched a single “live news” coverage of Michael; the news spreads faster online anyway. And even online news is bothering me lately (tributes, pictures, custody fights, lurid autopsy details) so I have escaped that as well. I still stand by what I said about people needing to grieve for public figures. It sounds conflicting, but it makes sense to me.

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Categories: Uncategorized

“We want you back”

It’s only now, 3 days later, than I can begin to cry over the death of Michael Jackson. I experience grief for him the way I’ve grieved for people I know personally; shock, disbelief, sadness; the feeling that the person you’ve lost is everywhere and nowhere at once. Compounding things is the tragedy his life became; the complexity of his legacy; the somber lessons about fame, work, and music that we are to learn from his life & death.

I’ve written before about the need for celebrity grief. Grieving people in the public eye, or with whom we grew up, is necessary and a rite of passage. Our culture is shaped by people who live their lives publicly, and when those lives end we are required to look at them honestly, grieve respectfully, and see them for the complicated, human people they were. Those who want to place Michael (or anyone who has died, for that matter) in an “either/or” box are missing this crucial point: it’s entirely possible that someone can be complicated, deeply flawed even, and yet contribute something of value to the world.

I took special notice of Lisa Marie Presley’s statement, released on her MySpace page. It’s particularly heartbreaking, because Lisa speaks candidly of wanting to “save” someone she loved from his own self-destructive impulses, and of course, being unable to do so. Lisa says,

I became very ill and emotionally/spiritually exhausted in my quest to save him from certain self-destructive behavior and from the awful vampires and leeches he would always manage to magnetize around him.

I was in over my head while trying.

I had my children to care for, I had to make a decision.

The hardest decision I have ever had to make, which was to walk away and let his fate have him, even though I desperately loved him and tried to stop or reverse it somehow.

How many people die every day that could have been “saved?” What is our responsibility to someone who doesn’t want our help? Relatives & loved ones of drug addicts, alcoholics and other risk-takers experience this all the time. How much of ourselves are we supposed to sacrifice? When do we make the decision to stop saving someone else and save ourselves? Which is more important?

Later in her statement, Lisa says she hopes everyone who worried over Michael can be “set free.” I hope she includes herself. And in her case, God bless her, she’s witnessed the same type of death twice, which is two too many for any one lifetime. It doesn’t seem there’s anything anyone could have done.

Perhaps most upsetting is how young Michael seemed; how terribly naïve; how full of energy he appeared to be. Watching him dance and jump and move and laugh is heartbreaking, knowing, simply, that he was so alive and now he isn’t. It’s always a little easier knowing someone died after they were “ready”; when they had made preparations and accepted that their time was over. I don’t think Michael ever could have been in this category as he seemed way too committed to his Peter Pan existence.

And here he is, literally singing to his inner child:

Between Two Small Worlds

Today there was a great post on Racialicious about Blacks & Latinos, specifically, Afro-Latinos. Explored in the post (and ensuing discussion) were issues of self-identification, cultural pride, what “recognized” Hispanics/Latinos think of Afro-Latinos, etc.

I love these types of discussions because they remind us that race and identity aren’t clearly defined, especially when you are a subset of two minorities. As a black person who speaks fluent Spanish, I can identify with this and detailed a few of my experiences in my comments. Speaking Spanish (and my affinity for the language & its cultures) means that I have given myself a global view of my experiences as an African American, and for that I often feel like an anomaly. I live in Texas, which doesn’t help — people here, white or black, still call Mexicans “Spanish”.

Strangely enough, the only time I’ve ever felt comfortable in this cultural divide is when I traveled to Puerto Rico late last year. Being a Spanish speaker and a black person was no longer an anomaly (and neither was being a full-figured woman) and I believe it was the first time I ever felt completely accepted and included. It was a great feeling, and one of the main reasons I want to go back.

A Racialicious reader asked me about my experiences in Puerto Rico, and my answer to her got so long I decided to make a post out of it. Thanks for your question, Xey!

I’m also an African-American Spanish-speaker (studied Anthro and Foreign Languages), and coincidentally, I’m planning a trip to PR with one of my A-A female friends who also speaks Spanish. Small world. Got any pointers, tips for travelling in PR?

Hey, congrats on your upcoming trip!

Hmm, tips for traveling… well if you are speaking in terms of general travel advice (where to stay, etc.) then I don’t have a whole lot to offer; I stayed in San Juan the entire week I was there, but plan to visit the whole island the next time I go.

Socially, I noticed that I was treated more like a “local” the more relaxed I was. I spoke Spanish very freely (instead of the usual “I hope I’m not making a mistake” mode I’m often in) and got more comfortable with myself. It happened very organically, and my favorite moment was when a white tourist came up to me, speaking his very bad Spanish. I was very excited about that, as I haven’t ever traveled anywhere I was not seen as an “other.” In PR, I found it very liberating to be in a place where the standard of beauty included me (I say this as a woman who is also full-figured; this may not be an issue for you or your friend).

Also, I was in San Juan with my white fiancé. I wasn’t in a tourist area, but was staying in a rented apartment in a residential area that seemed quite upscale to me. The general perception was that I was a boriqua who had brought her boyfriend to the island. However, I was there for a full day before his plane arrived, and I did notice that I was treated differently as a single black woman than as a black woman with a white guy, although I was assumed to be a “native” in both cases. I’m not sure if this is because of the racial/color issues inherent in PR society, if it was because it’s more acceptable to be with a man–any man–than to be a single woman, or if it was a class thing and people were being nice because they thought we had money. I would love to explore this more, given the chance. But I also loved that we were freely spoken to by black Puertorriqueños, and I felt embraced by them in a way I don’t often feel from blacks in the US.

Racialicious also has some posts on Blacks in Brazil (another place I intend to visit) and I will respond to that another time.

A Sucker for the Bridal Industry

Bride WarsSo my coffee table is *covered* with bridal magazines (and one issue of Fitness). On the mantle, on display, are the gorgeous bargain earrings I picked out. I have hundreds of Internet “favorites” in a folder marked, “Wedding.” Oh no! The industry’s gotten to me!

It was only a matter of time. I am an unabashed romantic. I love love, I love the fact that I’m going to be married, and I’m excited that I am lucky enough to be able to plan a wedding, and most importantly, I love my fiancé.

When it comes to the wedding industry, I generally think it’s perfectly okay to be romantic, enjoy “girly” things, and revel in bridal excitement. I think I can do these things and still be thoughtful and intelligent about it; all aspects of planning a wedding aren’t evil (though the industry as a whole can be) and I enjoy many of the traditions & symbols inherent in weddings.

That said, this weekend I watched two horrible products of the wedding industry and actually enjoyed them! (gasp!)

I watched Bride Wars, which by many accounts, is a terrible movie. It could have been a good satire, and passed up a chance to be an intelligent commentary on such things as the nature of womens’ friendships, the bridal industry, and how wedding planning affects relationships with your fiancé and how we perceive ourselves. And it missed on all counts! The movie is a nightmare. Horribly inconsistent, completely impossible storyline, and inane drama. (Although Anne Hathaway is excellent, as always). And still, I watched it–twice! (For the record, my favorite aspect were the depictions of the friendship between the two women; this, I thought, was relatively well done.)

Also tonight was the premiere of the newest season of “Bridezillas.” Am I completely insane? “Bridezillas” is terrible! I swear, those women must be coached, or maybe paid under the table. But I still watch it. And unfortunately, also the “10 Best Bridezilla Moments” that aired before it.

This show is particularly awful; it perpetuates horrible stereotypes, most notably the White Trash stereotype, but also the “Oh No She Di-in’t” Angry Black Woman stereotype and, new for this season, the fiery hot-Latina stereotype. It’s particularly cruel. And still, I watch. The women are abusive and mean — and fascinating. Most of the time, I turn the show off in the middle because it’s so awful. But I still patronize it. Horrible!

What does it say about women when we buy into the Bridal Industry? Are we all, no matter how intelligent & thoughtful, susceptible to the Wedding Industrial Complex? And, why, much to the chagrin of the feminists, do we treat marriage as an exclusive club to which we have FINALLY gained admission?

In other cultures, the wedding preparation is a time of reflection, when a bride gets together with other women and prepares for the next stage of her life. Fully acknowledged are the different emotions inherent in such a change: sorrow for the bride leaving her family; a sense of mystery about the marriage bed; the anticipation of starting a new life & family. These emotions are still felt, despite Americans’ best attempts to hide them, and I wonder if our bridal-planning stage is our expression of that.

Categories: family, marriage, media

Brides are Sex-Crazed [You mean wives can be sexy?]

Every few days, a news story comes out that is one of those “Oh, they must have run out of stories” type of articles. Today’s is an absolutely ridiculous article that paints modern brides as sex-crazed loose women. The headline states “MySpace Generation Brides go for Sexy, Not Virginal” and that just about explains everything wrong with this article.

The article starts out as a trend piece, discussing why brides are choosing to emphasize their sexuality on their wedding day: low-cut dresses, boudoir photographs, etc. It quickly descends into “What is the world coming to?” ridiculousness, with inflammatory language about how weddings are no longer in churches, and how brides are no longer virgins because they live with their partners and oh no what’s wrong everything was SO MUCH BETTER BACK IN MY DAY.

Of course, this is going right over the writers’ heads, but what about the idea that celebrating one’s sexuality in the context of marriage is a healthy thing? For so long we have had this opressive idea of brides as perfect virgins (who were supposed to stay that way, except when the guy wanted to or when you needed some children) and it’s caused all sorts of conflicts and double standards. Now, we have a new generation of brides who are publicly acknowledging that sexuality and romance are essential in a healthy marriage — and we villify them, dumb them down, and insult them with articles like these. :::sigh:::

Categories: Uncategorized