Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Thin Line...

Interesting situation of being surprised by the unthinkable coming true, life lessons, etc.
As mentioned, my cousin is in town visiting for 3 weeks—let’s call her Fox. It’s Saturday night and my neighbor friend asked if we could all go out for drinks. She had friends visiting from Tokyo and since she’s new to the city, she didn’t know where to go. So I took them all to Café Charbon and we chatted till around 1am, at which point the Japanese girls were tired and decided to call it a night. After leaving them, Fox and I went to my new favorite hangout (which happens to be across the street from my apt)—a divey little bar with a really nice, cute bartender, friendly hipster crowd, and a DJ who plays music way too loud and forces all the patrons to drink in mass out on the sidewalk. Around 1:45am I get a call from Grapes asking what I was up to. I told him I was having a drink and he responds, “Ok, I’ll see you in 45 seconds or 45 minutes”. He shows up about a minute later, just as the bar is closing. The bartender gives us VIP passes for Nouveau Casino so we head over, but decided to go back to Café Charbon and have drinks instead of going to the club.
And for the next couple of hours, Fox, Grapes and I are all laughing and joking, having a good time discussing everything from dating in Paris to being black in America. In typical Grapes fashion, he’s being inappropriate and crazy and I find it completely hilarious.
After a couple drinks, I excuse myself to go to the bathroom and when I came back what do I find: Fox and Grapes making out. Interesting... especially considering that she knows all the intricate details of the Grapes Saga and we’ve discussed the situation and my feelings ad nauseum… Oh, but it doesn’t end there folks. After the cloud of awkwardness lifts, we realize its 4:30am and probably a good time to head home. Fox makes a quick detour to the bathroom while Grapes and I wait outside. He’s giving me the funny eye and asking me if I’m angry. He’s all like, “Don’t be angry. You're the one with the boyfriend, blah blah blah” and gives me a hug. Naturally I laugh it off like it’s the biggest joke I ever heard, “Me angry? What for?”.
So we walk the 3 blocks back to my apartment while Grapes keeps asking me when I’m getting married and how B is doing. We reach my building and as I turn to walk inside Grapes is like, “Wait a minute. I want to take Fox for a little walk”. Oh really now? That little walk turned into the walk of shame when Fox stumbled in around 10am the next morning…
After leaving them I was pissed. I waited to hear her knock on the door so I could give her a piece of my mind. So I guess it’s a good thing she didn’t show up till the next morning b/c it gave me some breathing room to gain a bit of perspective (don't get me wrong, I'm still annoyed. Just not in the neck-roll, curse a bitch out kinda way).
Thing is, it’s not even like Grapes held any real significance for me, it’s more the principal of the situation. I guess part of it is that I’ve been enjoying this little flirtatious dance we’ve been doing for the past year. The other part could be chalked up to simple wounded pride with a little slice of betrayal thrown in for good measure. I mean, my cousin? Really? Grapes is the type to screw a random girl every night, I get that and it doesn’t faze me in the least. But in all honestly, where do friends/family draw the line on what is acceptable? When is a guy off limits? Are you allowed to lay claim to someone else when you already have a boyfriend? Personally, I think a friend should respect the line. If said guy is potential boyfriend material, then by all means go for it and see what could develop (I’ve had a friend who ended up marrying her friend’s ex-boyfriend)—you’re allowed a free pass and true romance wins out over a little crush. But hurt your family for a casual fu*k? Low blow. There are too many random guys you could pick up instead for that to be ok.
Oh well. On the flip side, at least now I can stop entertaining any silly delusions about what could be…

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Paris or Bust

Not sure if you heard the story of Jessica Roy, the NYU student and aspiring writer who jumped ship and moved to Paris when she realized that the real world was not a bowl of ice cream. Her story is very similar to mine, and for much of the same reasons I fled to Paris hoping to escape the drama that is New York and touch down on normal ground again. I remember my magazine days and how I worked my ass off in the naive expectation that hard work would be rewarded accordingly. I later learned that its not good work that pays off—its kissing ass, flaunting the millionaire boyfriend, hinting about your eating disorder and having your hair dyed the perfect shade of blond that gets you the steady promotions. I was fed up, itching for an adventure and dying to live in the lovely city of Paris where life seemed so much sweeter.

Excerpt from Jessica Roy's blog:

It is, unfortunately, not enough to be honest in this city. I will not give blowjobs for bylines. I will not laugh at peoples' unfunny jokes because I want them to be impressed by me. I will not become someone else so that I can be absorbed into this elite, nefarious world where people trade intellect like currency … I am getting out of New York for awhile, from August-January … New York is not a place for serious people. And it's a terrible place for an honest writer.

A response from New York magazine:

And so Jessica Roy will depart for a semester abroad in Paris in September. She will continue to maintain her blog — which will probably become wildly popular and, upon her return, she'll be owning these godforsaken media parties. Hang in, little one. Paris is a good place to get just jaded enough to come back to this town and run the show.

And funny enough, the New York writer also summed me up exactly. It made me smile to think that this is where I was just a short time ago and I've now reached the point that this author is foretelling for Jessica. I've spent a year writing, loving, learning and growing and I hope this young girl finds whatever it is she's looking for—I certainly did. My time abroad is nearly over, the rust has worn off and I'm ready to take back my city.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Black Issue My As*...

(Photo: Steven Meisel for Italian Vogue)

Like everyone else, I was really excited about the prospect of an “All Black” issue of a mainstream fashion magazine. And for it to be Vogue of all books—one of the most respected pubs in the industry and one that is least likely to feature black faces in their pages—was a big plus. After searching the newsstands in vain for a few weeks I finally found a sole issue remaining on the shelf of my local shop. I quickly tore open the package (I do love how international magazines always come with a little gift) and started slowly turning the pages… umm... I was really confused. For every one editorial page featuring a black model there are 20 pages of advertising featuring all white models. I had to stop and flip through the entire thing to make sure there wasn’t some mistake—surely there must be ads featuring black models, maybe towards the end of the book… nope. I think I counted a grand total of two ads, and they were for nondescript brands.
I’m sorry. Wasn’t the whole point of this issue to alleviate the discrepancy between black and white women in fashion magazines? To show that a black face can sell pages, products, a lifestyle, just as well as (if not better than) her white counterpart? Sure, Vogue Italia couldn’t force their advertisers to shoot black models for their campaigns but couldn’t they have positioned those ads featuring black models within the coveted cover spots or far forward placements? Couldn’t advertisers, considering that this particular issue would be read by a huge proportion of black women, have pulled an ethnic face from their repertoire? A Latina, Asian girl, something! Campaigns are shot months in advance; did none of these brands feature a single black model in their entire summer/fall shoot??
The thing is, its not like readers are just flipping through the articles and ignoring the advertising (how many of us who purchased the issue are fluent in Italian anyway? And there aren't that many black women in Italy). The reason advertisers spend millions of dollars on a page of advertising is because they expect that ad to turn into millions in retail sales. But at the end of the day, the cold hard reality is that fashion brands still do not feel that a black girl can represent their brand to the masses.
Personally, I feel like this was all just a big publicity stunt for Vogue Italia. They’re selling the issue like hotcakes (and the July issue isn’t normally a huge seller for magazines in general), getting tons of press and are being toted as the magazine that is bridging the divide. But when they were laying out the pages for the issue, I’d like to know what the discussion was when they saw hardly a single black girl in an ad in their so-called black issue. Granted, I can’t read the articles so there could be some very profound content within the pages, but visually speaking, the obvious discrimination only screams that much louder against a backdrop of black girl editorial. Its a beautiful issue nonetheless and I appreciate the effort. Its a step in the right direction, but until black readers can really see themselves represented throughout a magazine—including in the moneymaker—it’s simply not enough.
At the end of the day, having a fashion spread in Vogue is great, but having a multi-million dollar contract as the face of Dior is just a little bit better, don’t you think?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Bastille Day

Spent 3 lovely days in the middle of the French countryside to celebrate Bastille Day– which was a big departure from my normal ritual of having drinks at a French restaurant on the LES with a bunch of French expats. A friend of B’s has a huge old country home in Corréze, a tiny little town about 5.5 hours southwest of Paris, and invited 3 couples (along with my cousin and another friend) to drive down for a relaxing few days. We drove down on Friday night, arriving around 5am and crashed till the afternoon. On Saturday, we spent the day lounging on the terrace, playing table tennis in the backyard, eating and drinking local wines and wandering around the river and the little town square.

On Sunday, we went to visit an old underground cave. Don’t ask me what that was about—the entire tour was in French and I had no idea what they were saying so I just sat in the little boat and took in the pretty scenery. But it was packed and we waited a good hour or so to get in—so apparently it was a really popular site. On Monday morning, B, one of his friends and I woke up early, took out the bikes and did a tour of the gorgeous countryside.

We got back to the house and the whole group rented canoes and went canoeing down the river. It was a 2 hour trip from top to bottom and not without its snags. At one point, the boys stopped to climb to the top of a bridge and fling themselves into the river (I had keep my mouth shut on that one, can’t be embarrassing B in front of his “boys”). Then, about halfway down the river my canoe (with my cousin and a guy friend of B’s) had a little mishap and veered off into the trees and bushes that were hanging down into the river. When we finally managed to untangle ourselves, we found our boat covered with spiders and bugs! They were just crawling all over us! My cousin was freaking out big-time so that got me laughing, but then I kept seeing spiders all around me and since I couldn’t very well jump out of the canoe into the river, all I could do was scream and cry. Meanwhile, the guy in the canoe is cracking up at our freak out so he isn’t helping, B is calmly rowing off down the river b/c he’s used to my bug-phobia, and the rest of the group is just looking at us like we were a couple of crazies. Sorry folks, I just don’t do bugs and spiders. It grosses me out. Funny enough, before we left on the trip, the guy who owns the house asked B, “Is Stacy going to be ok out here? I know she’s a city girl…”. Well…

Finally, B rowed up beside our canoe and made a half hearted attempt to pull the spiders out of my hair while I tried to stay calm and act like I was still having a blast—in actuality, I was just waiting till the end of the stupid ride so I could go back to the house and scrub myself down in the shower. It was fun in the beginning but after the spider fiasco I was so through. Ugh… just thinking about it is giving me goosebumps… That evening, we had one final dinner before packing back into our cars and driving back to Paris. It was a really nice weekend… I got to know B’s friends better and spend 3 days in a part of France that I’ve never been before.

The funny part was the girlfriends. The entire trip, all they did was cook and clean while their boys sat around drinking and talking. Like literally, on their knees scrubbing the kitchen floor. And the cooked every meal from scratch—baking cakes, making crepes, eggs, pasta. And they did the dishes afterwards! And during every meal, they were just silent and let the boys do all the talking. They barely made a peep! My cousin and I just couldn’t get over it. You can’t put an American (or New York rather?) girl in a setting like that and expect her to play the mute little housewife. The only reason we didn’t contribute to the conversation much was because they were talking so fast and we couldn’t understand all the French slang. But the two French girlfriends had no excuse! And I’m sorry, I’ll wash a dish or two and maybe you can get me to toss a salad one night, but I’d be damned if I’m going to cook 3-course meals and clean every day while my man sits on his ass like some King. B may get a home-cooked meal once in a while, but we are going 50/50 on that sh*t. My cousin and I couldn’t stop laughing at the situation. After a feeble offer to help (which the girls promptly denied after we explained that we barely know how to boil water) we just sat outside drinking with the boys while the girls cooked. But I guess these girls are better than us, they sure do know how to take care of their men. Maybe that’s why French girls are never single…

Saturday, July 5, 2008

I [Heart] NY

B and I first started discussing New York about a month into our relationship but I never seriously thought we would make it to the point where we’d be taking a trip to my hometown together. I didn’t think we’d see out the month, let alone still be together 8 months later. Even when we bought our tickets (about 3 months in advance) I was thinking up a contingency plan after our inevitable breakup. Needless to say, 8 months came and went and we were soon off to spend 2 weeks in the States—10 days in New York (alternating between 2 friends’ apartments) with 5 days in Maryland in between to visit my parents. B’s excitement about New York was too cute. He lives and breathes hip hop and couldn’t wait to walk the streets of idols. He’s seen every New York-based movie and was determined to retrace the steps of his favorite films. He said to me, “After I see New York, I can die happy” and I remember having the same feeling once upon a time. My relationship with New York goes through waves and lulls—even with the conscious knowledge that I lived in the greatest city in the world, just as often as not, I felt fed up, exhausted, stressed out and annoyed with the place. I never walked across the Brooklyn Bridge or climbed to the top of the Empire State Building. I talked sh*t and complained about everything b/c that’s what we do. Sure, the view of the Manhattan skyline always made me smile, but I forgot about that particular giddy, child-like enthusiasm that the city can make you feel until B arrived and reminded me. I was excited to experience New York with him, to show him my world.
And we had the most amazing time. It was exhausting and way too short. We didn’t get to see everything I wanted to see/do, but B got a small taste of my amazing city and naturally, fell in love with it. I loved that he was so eager to go out and explore. To take it upon himself to wake up early to pickup donuts and coffee everyday for breakfast while I slept in. I loved his excitement at seeing an old-fashioned ice cream truck. I loved that he was so un-New York as to actually start conversations with strangers in the street from sheer curiosity.

And in Maryland was just chill. I let him sit in my favorite chair to watch TV, we hung out at the mall I spent my adolescence in, swam in the pool and just relaxed with old friends and family. And my mother ADORED him. Naturally, being the Haitian mother that she is, she showed her acceptance by trying to suffocate him with food every 2 seconds. But she noticed all the little things (his manners, how he takes care of me, how well he treats me) and said, “That’s a good man—you better not let him get away”.
Growing up as an only child, the only deep interactions I had with people who weren’t my blood family was with friends. As with many other people, my friends became my family. Granted, I have lots of friends and not all of them hold the same amount of weight as others, but each person is significant for one reason or another. So the biggest thing to me was being able to introduce the man I love to the people who matter the most to me—I wanted them to love him as much as I do.
But I forgot that at the end of the day, B is pretty shy. That he’s not Mr. Life of the Party around strangers and isn’t the easiest person to get to know. I forgot that in a group of Americans speaking rapid-fire English in a loud crowded bar he can’t always keep up. I didn’t know what would happen when I took B out of his element. I expected him to just be able to jump in, stand his ground and be instantly comfortable in the middle of the silly, familiar banter that I’d developed with people after years of friendship. And I mistakenly thought that my friends would instantly see in him what I see. And although people had a chance to meet him briefly, I didn’t give many people the chance to get to KNOW him one-on-one and therefore, it was hard for most of my friends to form an opinion about him. With me, he’s B. He’s not perfect and he drives me crazy at times. He tells stupid jokes. He insists on his jeans and t-shirts. He gets moody and sullen and French on me at times, but my heart still skips a beat when I see his face. He is sweet and adorably awkward, gentle and so fragile. Why God put us together is beyond me, but between him and me, it just works. B is just about my polar opposite but he makes me happy.
But does he fit into my world? At the end of this wonderful year in Paris, would I be able to pack him up, bring him to New York and seamlessly integrate him into my life? That is the big question I was left with. Maybe it’s not meant to be as simple as that, but for a girl who is rarely without her friends, I cannot imagine having to try to split my time between B and my friends b/c they don’t care to get along. My boyfriend and my friends—we have to ALL be one family. As deeply as I love a man, I could not give up my friends for any one person—and I don’t know if I could deal with him not loving them as much as I do.
On the flip side, I’m still evolving and growing. Oprah said she didn’t truly know who she was until she turned 50. This is my first real relationship so I’m still figuring out how things work. Add to that the fact that we fell in love under unique circumstances and I didn’t have the normal springboard of opinion from my friends from Day 1 (whether that is a good or bad thing is debatable). I don’t know if my concerns are valid or just a bunch of rubbish that doesn’t matter at the end of the day. About 8 weeks till I leave Paris (GOD!) so only time will tell…

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

What Pride?

Back in March, B’s mother invited me to his goddaughter/niece’s baptism. Very exciting stuff considering it was a big family affair and she told B to let me know I was to be her “guest”. Then, about 2 weeks before his family was expected to arrive from LA, B gets a call from his brother informing him that the baptism would be strictly family—meaning I could not attend. What?! Why?? Did his parents not want me to attend? Did the family think I was just some random jump-off who wouldn’t last and didn’t want me in the pictures? Was it b/c I’m black? I couldn’t understand why I was suddenly excluded (particularly since I’d already been invited months ago) so of course I assumed the worst. B felt horrible about it and that made me feel worse than the withdrawn invite itself. But there was nothing he could do so I decided to spend the baptism weekend in the South of France with my expat friends who were leaving Paris the following week.
2 weeks later, B’s brother leaves his wife and her 2 sisters in Paris and heads to his parents house in Troyes with the baby. I was determined not to act stank so I made every effort to get to know the ladies and we actually ended up hitting it off. They were all really sweet and fun and I took them around to see the sights and hang with my friends as if they were my own guests.
On Friday, B and his sister-in-law left for a weekend in Troyes. By Sunday, B returns to Paris and tells me his brother said I could come to next weekend’s baptism after all—apparently he regretted saying I couldn’t attend and was really looking forward to meeting me. Very nice. But there was no way I was going to go after all of that drama—my pride wouldn’t let me. So I gave B my gift for the baby and told him to extend my apologies to the family for not being able to be there.
The next day B’s brother arrives in Paris. I wasn’t sure whether it would be awkward or not but it went off without a hitch. We chatted and laughed a lot and ended up hanging out a few times throughout the week. By this time, my trip down South had been cancelled so I planned to spend the weekend in Paris partying with my friends. Meanwhile, the whole group was heading to Troyes that evening and it was time to say my goodbyes since I would not be attending the baptism and they would be flying back to LA directly from Troyes the following week.
As I was saying goodbye, B’s brother said, “What do you have planned this weekend?”
Me: “Well my friends are leaving Paris this week so we’re having our farewell party”.
Brother: “What day? B/c we would really like you to come to the baptism on Sunday”.
Me: “Tonight… but we may get together Saturday night too”.
Brother: “Well you should join us tomorrow morning instead”.
Me: [Laughing] “I really don’t think your parents would like to see me hung over tomorrow”.
Brother: “True. Then you’ll just have to come in the afternoon once you’ve sobered up. Really, I insist”.
I was determined to stick my ground, not b/c I didn’t WANT to go, it was strictly on principal. In my mind, I didn’t want to be the girl waiting around with her weekend open, hoping for a last minute invite. But once his wife started chiming in I couldn’t say no any longer. Technically I didn’t have any plans and I couldn’t think of a valid excuse quick enough so I gave in.

There were about 30 aunts, uncles and cousins at the house and we spent all day Sunday drinking wine and champagne, eating delicious French food and talking (all in French) in the family’s garden. B’s brother announced to everyone that he was really impressed with my French. I did some translating for the in-laws who didn’t speak French/English. I even had a 30 minute convo with B’s aunt discussing my relationship and future plans with B. Late that evening, while B was driving me back to the train station, he told me that his family pulled him aside to tell him I was great and they were looking forward to seeing me again. Score! I was able to meet his family and finally put faces to names, be part of a significant family function for the first time ever and practice my French. And I actually managed to make a good impression despite my nervousness. So in the end, I’m really glad I decided to swallow my pride and go.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


I know I’ve been M.I.A. these last few weeks—that only means that I’ve been super busy and have lots more stories to share so please forgive me and please bear with me. First, I had another interesting encounter with B’s family which tested my humility. Then, B and I went off and spent 2 eye-opening weeks in New York and Maryland. And finally, we had the biggest, scariest fight we’ve ever had, over the blog. And I did think about shuttering the blog for good—it’s an awful feeling to know that you’ve hurt someone you love—but then I thought, this blog is for me. I started it with the intention of having a space where I could jot down my thoughts and feelings and document my life in what is proven to be one of the most significant years of my life. A space where I could share with friends my mistakes, triumphs, doubts, adventures and lessons learned in all of its “coming-of-age” glory (and folly). As the ex-Governor McGreevy said (in an entirely different context but whatev), “This is my truth” and what good is having a truth if you can’t express it. That being said, moving forward, I will be conscientious while still trying to remain completely accurate and true to myself :o)