Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My Baby is a Maverick

My Viva is 8 years old. She is bigger than she has ever been, but she is still, in the scheme of things, a little girl. She often shows such maturity and a sensibility beyond her years that I forget she is still quite small yet.

This weekend, after I took her box braids out on Saturday, she wore her hair “wild” on Sunday. At first she was rocking a Macy Gray-style ‘fro, but then she styled her hair so it fell across her forehead. “I want to have rock star hair!” she said. I noticed her hair could use a trim and some conditioning (she’s been swimming a lot this summer and her hair is drier than usual), but no harm hanging around the house or going to Target like that. However, on Sunday evening, which is usually Hair Night, she told me in no uncertain terms that she wanted to wear her hair “out” to camp the next day.

“Ooooh,” said Sweet Dub. “I don’t know about that.”

“Honey, tomorrow is a swim day,” I said. “Do you really want to go with your hair out? It might not look the way you want it to when you come out of the pool.”

“I don’t care,” said Viva.

“Kids might make fun of you if you wear your hair wild,” Sweet Dub said.

“I don’t care,” said Viva. “I like my hair. It’s cool.”

After a bit more discussion, we agreed that she should wear her hair how she wants. I have been a big cheerleader for natural hair over Viva’s lifetime, so evidently it somehow soaked in. She very rarely wears an Afro; her preference is for two-strand twists so she can shake her head and feel her hair swing around. I was pleased she stood her ground, but a little apprehensive. After we concluded our conversation, I said to Sweet Dub privately, “I have a feeling I’ll be doing hair tomorrow night.”

The next day, I dampened Viva’s hair, put some moisturizing crème on it and sent her off to camp. When Ceeya and I went to pick her up at the end of the day, she was standing off to the side of the gym, by herself. She gathered her things and as we were walking out, she said, “Mom, I had a horrible day,” and then she started crying.

Kids made fun of her hair all day. She cried as we walked home, and she continued crying as we sat with her dad and talked about it. Not only did a variety of kids (most of whom were bigger than she is, since this camp admits kids age 7 and up) make fun of her hair throughout the day, but one of her closest friends told her that her hair looked ugly. (This is a kid who usually is at our house after camp literally 4-5 days per week. She is the daughter of a single mom, one of Sweet Dub’s best friends from high school who works until 6 in Santa Monica and can’t pick her up on time. We consider this child family, one of Viva’s “play cousins.” She eats dinner with us several nights a week, we are her emergency contact for the camp, etc. I could not believe that in this instance she would not have Viva’s back. Yes, I am still furious at this 7-year-old child. It is not rational. Let me back off this tangent before I really get going.)

We all cuddled in a pile on the couch, Viva’s beautiful eyes shiny with tears as she let all the stored-up heartache of the day spill forth.

“This is not your problem, this is their problem. It says more about them than it says about you. Your hair is beautiful and you can wear it how you want,” I said.

“You don’t have to do what everyone else does,” Sweet Dub said. “You can be different. It’s people like you who change the world. Who cares what they think?”

“You crying? Why Coco* is crying?” Ceeya said, patting her sister’s leg.

(What is really infuriating to me is that the vast majority of the kids in the camp are also black. “The same flipping hair grows out of their heads!” I said to Sweet Dub later in my Mama Bear rage. “They don’t even know what their own friggin’ natural texture looks like!”)

After she dried her tears and blew her nose, Viva said, “I’m going to wear my hair like this for the rest of the week. Because I LIKE IT.”

She is badass. I wish I had that confidence at 8. And I’m proud of her.

* Coco is her nickname for Viva. This in itself is a long story.

Monday, August 08, 2011

All Over the Place

Are you still there? 

My mind is kind of running amok these days. Work has been extra busy since sometime in May. As I reached a deadline of July 15th for a major project, about to breathe a sigh of relief and expecting to take just a couple of days off, my boss informed me that she needed me to write a $500,000 proposal, due in less than two weeks, on a brand new project we are developing. “You’re not going to be able to take any time off until August—like me,” she said. I was already fried then, but I sucked it up and just kept going. It had to be done, and no one else could do it. My boss has been working every weekend since March. She is a machine! (And I say this with affection. She never asks more than she would do herself.)

So: other deadline reached. While others loom, we have both cried Uncle. She is off on vacation and I am finally going to get some time off later this week (just a couple of days to celebrate my birthday. I will be 43. Ye Gods!). I will then come back, refreshed, and work a couple more weeks before I take a full week off around Labor Day, at which point we will be moving into the hypothetical new home we are miraculously going to find this week. (Yes, I agree, not much of a vacation.)

Here’s where we are with that: given our current economic status, we need to downsize. Sweet Dub, God bless him, has been out of work since April 2010. While he has been exploring various avenues*, freelancing and the like, he does not have a regular source of income. Our house, which is awesome, is a little big for us and we could stand to go smaller. While I was hoping we could find a modest house to rent in the area, here is what I am finding:

(1) small, rundown crappy houses where I would have to buy a gun and a German Shepherd 5 minutes after moving in or, if in a reasonably safe area, houses which need major home improvements/repairs which have not yet even begun but are “planned” (e.g. installation of central heat);

(2) huge, rundown houses that would cost a fortune to heat and cool;

(3) ridiculously overpriced condos;

(4) cute houses in decent condition that are a good $500-$1000 more a month than we can comfortably spend.

An added wrinkle is that to remain in proximity to our current neighborhood—i.e. within a three-mile radius—we are looking at areas that are actually not in our school district. We are on the border of Culver City, which has a really good school system, and we are also on the border of Ladera Heights, which I just recently learned is not part of Los Angeles Unified but part of the Inglewood School District (definitely NOT good schools, from all I’ve read and heard). For many reasons, this bums me out, because Viva is happy with the magnet program at her LAUSD school and I would hate to move her. As I’ve said before, we love the neighborhood we’re in and feel very much a part of the community, so we want to stay in the general area.

We have finally faced the facts and are looking at apartments (still not in our current neighborhood, because the trend there seems to be “nice little houses not-for-rent” and “kind of crummy apartment buildings.” Not sure why this is. ). I am trying to make peace with this.

I know, woe is me with my petty little problems. I grew up in a series of cramped apartments, so I know where my resistance on this comes from. But really: “Oh noes, we have to move into an apartment!” It’s not the end of the world. I am lucky, given the continuing crappy economy, to have a job. I can still feed my family. So we will have to give up our cushy house with the yard and our illusion of suburban home living. Big freakin’ deal, right?

But honestly, I am not trying to live in the lap of luxury. I just want a place that’s clean, and safe, and peaceful. I don’t want to have to spend my first few days in a new place scrubbing to get it clean. If you know me in real life, you know I am not a neat freak. Trust when I say that too many of the places we have been seeing are grubby. I can’t believe people expect you to spend hard-earned money to move into a place that is raggedy and dirty.

This weekend I saw a house for lease which, if I had been in the market to buy, I might have considered. I might have been able to live with its flaws if I knew I could fix them. It was spacious, it had great bones, and it was in a quiet neighborhood with a decent yard. The paint on the exterior was peeling, the upstairs bathroom was godawful (bright pink tile and a baby blue bathtub), and the whole interior had a feeling of neglect. Walls needed spackling and painting, carpet should have been ripped up and replaced or maybe let the hardwood floors come out to play. In any event, I knew Sweet Dub (who was off hammering out some legal issues with prospective partners in Glendale) would hate it. I had to smile and pass.

Right now it is looking like we are apartment-bound, for sure. I am less upset about that today than I was over the weekend. Stay tuned.

* Sweet Dub has really been working hard to get a number of television projects off the ground. This is an added frustration, because while he does have interest from some major players, including a cable network, things move slowly. Everyone is very encouraging; we are hopeful that he will get a deal but it could be six months from now. Or, it being Hollywood, it could be never. He now has three projects in development, one of which looks like it will actually happen (network people have been flying out from New York to talk with him, they email back and forth constantly) but not before we move. Of course. Sigh.