The Male Ego, Part II – God’s Gift

Good-looking women are often stereotyped as conceited. Unfortunate. This stereotype creates something of an “expectation” of conceit. And often, acceptance follows expectation.

Some of my down-to-Earth friends associate with pompous people — much to my chagrin. Naturally, the pretentious persons in question are usually women. And although I am no fan of arrogance, I can somewhat deal.

Now let’s talk about what I can’t deal with.

We all know a few. Men who think they are the epitome of manhood and perfection personified. Oh, these creatures. They walk around with their heads in the clouds and up their arses at the same time — a feat to stand in awe of, indeed. How do they do it?

Well, that is a mystery that will remain one. I don’t know how they do it but I know why they do it — EGO.

Such a man has been told he’s fine” by his mom, grandma, aunties, neighbors and teachers since he ‘strutted’ down the birth canal. He has had women falling all over him since Pre-K. It was around that same time that other guys either started sucking up to him or plotting on his downfall — and he ate it all up like Thanksgiving Dinner.

In an alternate scenario, the guy starts out as an ugly duckling who isn’t very popular in school. He has a few close friends and a girlfriend or two but that’s about it. Either in high school or college (usually the latter), he reinvents himself. Things get ugly — quick. Not used to being really successful and popular, he gets hooked on his newfound glory and BAM — egomaniac!

As stated in Part I of the Male Ego, everyone has an ego. And I will add that depending on circumstance or situation, it can be both useful and necessary, alluring and sexy.

However, everything has its time and place. One’s ego does not need to be unleashed, full-force, 365.

When I think of the ideal man, I think of a man who is self-assured and confident but also humble and gracious. He knows that he’s the sh*t to the point that he doesn’t need to make self-indulgent statements all the damn time (think Jay-Z vs. Kanye).

This man does not need to put down or look down on others who can’t, or choose not to, match him tic-for-tac in terms of physique, fashion, finances, etc. He simply feels content and blessed because of all the great things he has going for himself.

This guy elevates others because he knows that the light of others won’t steal any shine from him — he’s THAT good!

I can’t stand the guy who uses every social gathering as an opportunity to brag on what he has and what he’s doing. If he’s not doing that, he’s laying out his “standards” of fine dining and apparel. Worst of all is when he goes into painstaking detail about all the criteria a woman must meet “to be his lady.”

That, friends, is a post for another day.

In the meantime, I suggest the next time a male friend of a friend starts droning on and on about how great he is, you wait until he pauses to catch his breath, wrinkle your forehead, look him dead in the eye and say, “But who asked you, though?”

The Male Ego, Part I — The Authoritarian

About a week ago, my friend Carmen <almost30something.com> and I were out for a night on the town. Even though it was a Wednesday night, we said “What the heck? It’s nice out!” I mean, can you think of a better reason to hit the town?

Anyway, we’d just left a tasting for Remy Martin’s new product “Remy V” — very delicious, by the way — and were headed to Stadium. Yes, the gentleman’s club. (Side note: I find this term to be sexist. Please believe me, the gentle ladies — and rough ones — enjoy such establishments JUST as much as the fellas).

OK. Focus, Mercia. As we were making a right turn off Bladensburg onto Queens Chapel, our trip was delayed. Why, you ask? There was a cop car in front of my car, that had a tractor-trailer in front of it, which had another 18-wheeler in front it. The latter was attempting to turn into a warehouse garage. Cool. I peeped the situation and waited patiently…for 10 minutes (or until the light turned from greed to read 10 times, depending on how you’d like to think about it).

Naturally, we were growing impatient. After all, we were anxious to get to the strip-club debauchery that surely awaited us. So, Carmen hit me with a few hypothetical situations. Maybe, the stationery tractor-trailer was broke down or maybe the cop was giving him a fine for some infraction. “That makes sense,” I thought. By now, the mega-vehicle that was at the front of our “line” had made his way into the garage but no other vehicle, including mine, had moved yet.

This is where I made the decision to go around the police car. Carmen kept a close, careful eye on the area ahead of the tractor-trailer — we had to be sure that as I went around the stalled vehicles, opposing traffic wouldn’t come down the road and hit us dead on.

After a few more minutes, I had my chance. I quickly, yet carefully, went around the police car and tractor-trailer. No sooner than I did, the police car suddenly came to life and chased me down, horn and sirens BLAZING. I pull over. From the gate, I’m 50% sure he’s upset I went around him.

The police officer approaches my car. He’s a black man around 45 years of age with an average height and build. I note that his eyes are a light, honey brown — not very typical of folk with a deep-brown complexion. He may have been attractive…if it weren’t for the piercing stare, seven wrinkles in his forehead and unmistakable scowl.

His greeting was less than professional. No “hello” or “good evening,” just “license and registration.” I handed both over. He looked down at them for two seconds and then whipped his head back up to me, barking “What makes you think you can do something I didn’t do? Why did you go around me when you saw me waiting for that truck to move?!?”

I was taken aback by his demeanor but replied sweetly, “Officer, I wasn’t sure what you were doing. I didn’t know if you were assisting the driver with something or pulling him over.”

Well, before I could get the last word out my mouth, he nastily sniped, “Did you see my lights on?!? If I was pulling him over there would be lights!”

Even though I was thinking “Is it a rule that I have to pay attention to a cop’s lights being on when they aren’t for me? Like, do I get paid to know all the police visual signals,?” I said “You’re right, Officer. Your lights weren’t on. I apologize.”

Without any response, he rolled his eyes and walked away in a huff. Ten minutes passed. During these ten minutes, several young men walked passed my cars giggling and pointing at my misfortune. Great.

Then, here comes “back-up.” I don’t know why this overly aggressive officer felt he needed help but whatever. Back-up comes and gets out his car. He shares a few words with the apprehending officer and then walks up to the back my car. From there, he BEATS ON MY TRUNK AND THUMPS ON THE PASSENGER SIDE OF MY CAR. I  don’t remember what I said, but I do remember my face being contorted as I peered in my rearview and side-view mirrors, watching in horror. By now, Carmen is cussing out the officers, their descendants, and ancestors. Thankfully, her window was up.

Soon after this, back-up gets back in his car and pulls off. Five minutes later, the angry officer comes back. He says, and I do quote, “Here’s your license plate and registration, and here’s your citation.” He then turns on his heels, and walks away.

There is no explanation of why he pulled me over, no explanation of the citation, and no bidding farewell. I am stunned. I look down at the ticket — $50, driving on the wrong side of the road. Before I could catch myself, I blurt out “Are you f*cking serious?.” I know he heard me. I looked at him through my side-view as I said it and he noticeably paused as the expletive flew out my mouth. He walked on, though.

I find it funny that this “officer of the law” couldn’t even look me in my eye when he literally tossed the ticket in my lap. It’s probably because he knew he was full of shit.

In any case, I attribute this whole incident to one thing — THE MALE EGO. I use the first thing this man ever said to me as evidence: “”What makes you think you can do something I didn’t do?” <–THERE IT IS.

Sure, we all have egos but men in authoritarian positions take it waaaay too far. Most ladies can get out of minor situations like the one I described by smiling sweetly, talking softly and being extra polite/charming. Not with this guy! He had a point to make and I’m sure he walked away feeling “big,” “important,” and like “somebody.”

It’s not just the cops. Trust me, I’m not one of those black people who rag on the police 24/7. You see this at the club, too. Bouncers who are waiting for someone to even suck their teeth so they say “That’s it, your out of here!” Club owners know that men best fulfill these positions because women are not naturally egotistical. In other words, we don’t make good assholes unless we are forced into this role by circumstance.

Gentlemen, avoid being mimicked, mocked and ridiculed behind your back by approaching any and every leadership or authoritarian role you come into with a sense of grace, elegance and humbleness. People will ultimately respect and appreciate you more. Besides, the “Power Trip” is soooo 90’s.

Springing Forward

Ok. Eventually I will get this right. To date, I haven’t exactly made this blog a top priority but I think about ContraVerseSee all the time. For once, I have the two conditions necessary for me to write — a spare moment and an uncluttered mind. Both happening at the same time is rare. In short, I have a lot going on right now.

At work, the kids are only a month from state testing. Naturally, we teachers are under more pressure than they are {sense my sarcasm}. While I understand that educators need to be accountable for kids actually learning what they should, I will never comprehend why D.C. calls for 50% of a teacher’s yearly evaluation to come from kids’ test scores. In most states, standardized test scores count for between 20% and 30% — this makes more sense. Hopefully, the District will follow suit one day. Until then, I am uber-focused on delivering great instruction, making tight lesson plans, coming up with engaging activities, etc.

Anyway, by the time I get home at night, the only thing I usually want to see on my computer screen is a funny video or a cute pair of pumps. It’s all good, though. At least it’s not pitch-black when I leave work now and the kids are (finally) onboard with becoming great mathematicians — at least until mid-April. As of late, it’s not unusual for one of them to look at another and say “Would you be quiet?!? It’s crunch time!” LOL! #LOVEIT

Speaking of April, Spring Break is upon us. For most people my age, the mystique of SB has begun to die down. However, when you’re a teacher, you are always reminded of Spring Break because school shuts down for it. What this means for me is a solid 10 days off, weekends included. I wish I could say I had something extraordinary planned but I’m broke (or should I say all of my money is accounted for).

I got a nice lil’ something back from the Feds when I filed my taxes but I decided to be responsible and put most of that money into my saving account. I left a little out for new tires and a few pieces to spruce up my Spring wardrobe, but I digress. It’s cool. Nowadays, the weather seems to always be nice no matter what time of year it is, so I’m sure I will get to lounge on someone’s island once or twice before the year’s over. A quick trip to Miami or another stint in Jamaica sure would be nice, though.

I do have Spring Break options. I’m considering going to Detroit with a few of my girls. I’m dying to get one of those Coney dogs I hear everyone talk about so much and I want to see 8 Mile. Don’t worry, If I go, I’ll be sure to pack my bulletproof vest. Safety first. 🙂

Now, I didn’t want to talk about this prematurely but a couple of months ago, I applied to be a corps member advisor (CMA) at Teach For America’s Philadelphia Institute this summer. Even though I made it to the second round, the phone interview was an intense 90-minutes of role play and Q&A — so I didn’t want to get too excited. A few days ago, though, when I received the e-mail that started with “Congratulations” I went ballistic!

This is a huge opportunity I’ve been blessed with and I am really looking forward to training new corps members. It’s nice to know that a prestigious organization all about great teaching thinks I have what it takes to teach other people how to teach!

I still remember going through summer Institute — the 18-hour days, the inevitable sleep deprivation, the endless sessions on literacy and curriculum. It’s nice to be on the other side of the fence. The 18-hour days and sleep deprivation continues, though. 😛

I’m amped! I get to be in my hometown all summer, doing something meaningful. Even better? My partner-in-crime Khabria is going to be a CMA, too! Not only am I going to have fun but this position is going to GLOW on my résumé and put a nice piece of change in my pocket. Thank you GOD!

Things haven’t been “all work, no play” for me, though. I’ve spent a considerable amount of the free time I do have partying hearty! I was sooo over the club scene but these last few weekends? Party. Animal. Hey, I have to blow off steam some way! Hehe!

My Love Is Your Love

Whitney.

I don’t even know where to start. I can say that she had a smile that makes me smile. A voice that gives me goosebumps. A spirit that can’t be held by any speaker or TV screen. A beauty that was obviously deeper than the skin.

I’m no bandwagon jumper. I grew up listening to Whitney Houston. My mom loved her pre-Bodyguard, 80’s hits best. My grandma watched The Bodyguard at least once a month for years (in part because she thought Kevin Costner was the FINEST thing back then and she SWEARS if Whitney didn’t love Bobby, she would have been with him instead).

I read “Waiting to Exhale” as a precocious child. As an adult, I own a meager 15 or so DVDs and I count the cinematic version, starring Whitney, as one of them.

As a pre-teen, I sung in the church choir. One of my favorite songs to sing around the holidays was Whitney’s “Who Would Imagine A King.” I love the lyrics…”Mommies and daddies always believe, that their little angels are special indeed. And they can grow up to be aaaaanything, but who would imagine A KING?”

At home, Christmas is never complete until Whitney’s rendition of “Joy to the World” comes on WDAS. It feels me with joy and makes me want to worship something crazy.

My favorite Whitney album is “My Love Is Your Love.” The title song always made me think about my mom. As an adult, it has added meaning that is equally special.

So, when my aunt sent me a text that simply said “Whitney Houston died,” I started seeing double. I scrolled my phone over to Twitter for confirmation and my heart dropped. That night, I shared Whitney memories with everyone else, and in doing so, the reality of the situation felt surreal.

It was two nights later as I wound down from a rather easy, pleasant day at work that I burst into tears. And I just laid on my bed and cried. It was a good cry — the kind that cleanses and soothes all at the same time.

I was good after that — until the end of her funeral yesterday. When the pallbearers hoisted Whitney’s casket onto their shoulders, my eyes filled right up. I guess on the inside, I felt a little of what Ray J felt. Once her body passed him by, he just looked back and the expression on his face said “Are you serious?!? Will I really never see her again?” That’s how I felt.

That’s the feeling you get when you see a loved-one wheeled away or lowered into the ground. You know that’s it forever. And that is much to bear. Much. So yes, I am a Whitney Houston fan and I will be for the rest of my life. But I am also apart of her extended family. And I wish her safe travels on her way to paradise.

I am not in any position to judge any decision she made during the course of her life. I am truly angered by people who have dwelled on her trials and tribulations. In general, I can’t stand holier-than-thou people. We have all fallen short of the glory of God.

As New Jersey governor Chris Christie said after being criticized for ordering all flags flown at half-mast in Whitney’s honor,  “There but for the grace of God go I.” And it’s true. You can be up today, and down tomorrow. Alive today, and dead tomorrow. Remember that before you judge.

I will say that Whitney has been described on the number of specials that have aired this week as having a heart of gold, a generous nature, and a down-to-Earth way that made all those around her feel comfortable and loved. This comes as no surprise to me. I have no doubts that someone as genuine as she will have any trouble getting into heaven.

In any case, I know that Whitney would want me to stay focused on the positive, continue to love, maintain a strong relationship with God, and to live my life with bold courage, a resolute spirit and an open heart.

Thank you, Whitney. Your anointed voice and the example you set by loving effortlessly will be with me forever.

Jam-Packed Peppers

So, in efforts to step out the box a smidge, I decided to try a new recipe. This recipe does require a bit of prep before cooking, so make sure you have about 30 mins. to spare. What I like about this dish is that there is room for change to suit individual tastes and it hits every category in the food pyramid (sans fats, oils and sugar) for maximum nutritional benefit.

What You’ll Need

  • 6 bell peppers
  • olive oil
  • butter or margarine
  • red onion
  • mushrooms
  • diced fresh or canned tomato
  • any kind of tomato sauce you’d like (1 1/2 jars)
  • garlic powder or crushed garlic
  • oregano
  • basil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • ground meat (preferably turkey, but use beef if you’re into that)
  • rice (I like jasmine or basmati for this dish, but brown or white rice will work, too)
  • one egg
  • ketchup
  • mustard
  • shredded cheddar cheese

What To Do

Cut tops off peppers; remove seeds and membranes. Chop edible part of tops and set aside. Rinse peppers under cold water. Place peppers in a large pot; cover with salted water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain peppers and set aside.Heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat until hot. Sauté chopped green pepper (from tops), mushrooms and chopped onion for about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, garlic, oregano, basil,  salt, and pepper. Simmer for about 10 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the egg with a little salt and pepper, ketchup and mustard. Next time I am going to try Worcestershire sauce instead of ketchup and mustard. Gently stir to blend; add ground meat, cooked rice, and 1 cup of the tomato mixture. Mix well.

Stuff the bottom third of the peppers with meat mixture and then pour the tomato mixture into the pepper. Add more meat mixture. Place the peppers in a 3-quart baking dish. The peppers may need to lean against each other to stay upright — it doesn’t hurt anything. Top off remaining tomato mixture over the stuffed peppers. Bake at 350° for 60 to 70 minutes. Top stuffed peppers with a little shredded Cheddar cheese about 5 minutes before peppers are done; bake until cheese is melted.

Recipe for stuff pepper will probably serve 6. I was full after one.

How To Eat

Dig in! Some people will probably avoid the pepper altogether but after I ate what was inside, I did pull apart the pepper a bit with my fork and ate about one-third of it. Yum!

Places to Try: Smith Commons and Tuscana West

So, I don’t get out much. But the last couple weekends, I’ve been able to venture out and enjoy some of what D.C. has to offer. I tried out two new places that I’ve never been before — not because I’m an explorative visionary but because that’s where my friends took me. Either way, I recommend both venues for a good time:

Smith Commons

Up until a couple of years ago, H St. NE was nothing to write home about…unless you were a journalist writing a news story about urban decay or crime. However, the neighborhood has always been filled by great residents who take pride in and love their community. With revitalization efforts, the feel of the community is now matched by looks. Although many residents complain that gentrification is pushing them out of their neighborhood, and their concerns are valid, businesses like Smith Commons has brought jobs, capital and vibrant life to the H St. Corridor.

Smith Commons blends the restaurant, bar and club scene with warmth and class. The staff is friendly and has a camaraderie with their regulars. One bartender even noted that while he’d seen my friend, Carmen, once before — I was a first-timer. The drinks come at a reasonable price, especially since they are as tasty as they are potent. The crowd is mixed — expect to see all colors and hear a varied genres of music within a half-hour’s time. The first floor is definitely about dining and chatting. Once you head up the steps, the chatting continues but you will have to talk louder because the music is in full effect.

I wouldn’t say this is the place to go if you want to work up a sweat and back it up all night, but the vibe is unique in that everyone is clearly flowing with the music in an obvious way that doesn’t include too many moves being busted. As a foodie, I am ashamed to say that I didn’t order any food because I had already eaten. But I did scan all the tables around me and every dish I saw looked yummy. No worries, I will be back to partake and an update shall follow!

Tuscana West

During the day and on most evenings, Tuscana West is a romantico ristorante italiano. On Saturday nights, however, it’s apparently a poppin’ nightclub. Now, most of the clubs I go to are in the general area of Tuscana West (I St./McPherson Square) but I’d never heard of this place until an hour before I walked through the doors. I didn’t know what to expect. My unfamiliarity automatically led me to presume lameness. As soon as I crossed the threshold, however, I was pleasantly surprised.

The club is spacious with a few bars and ample dance room. VIP tables are available and the decor can be described as colorful, modern chic with a hint of romance. Like Smith Commons, the crowd is mixed but I heard all the current hip-hop hits thanks to DJ Quicksilva. If you aren’t from the D.C. area, let me acquaint you with this deejay — he’s hot. He has a radio show. He was a Pepsi deejay. He can mix. He gets the party going. The end. So I danced and danced and danced. And drank and drank and drank. All that being said, I will be going back to take in more details and see if my first experience was a fluke or if this really is a go-to for a great time.

The Grey — Not As Dull As The Color

So I saw Liam Neeson’s latest, “The Grey,” and I must say — it’s my kind of movie. Lots of action accompanied by rich dialogue that gets the viewer thinking about life. This is a rare mix so naturally, I was in cinematic heaven. “The Grey” is a movie some people may not be able to appreciate. The setting bounces between the Alaskan wilderness (read: snow + forest) and Neeson’s flashbacks to a crowded pub and the serene bedroom he once shared with his sweetheart. The plot, at first glance, is just as monochromatic. But as the characters fight against bitter cold, hopelessness and ravenous wolves the size of wooly mammoths, you’ll watch them discover more than the uncharted terrain can offer.

Productivity Apps I Love

I love my iPhone. After being #teamiPhone for nearly a year, I am just starting to take advantage of the vast range of apps. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been playing Angry Birds and Temple Run for some time now — but these apps don’t exactly help me in life much. Hey, I have a lot going on. That being said, it is hard to remember what needs to be done and when. Thank the heavenly spirit of Steve Jobs for the following:

Easy Calendar

It syncs events to your main calendar and has features that allow you to color code tasks and events by category (i.e. work, leisure, etc.). You decide when you want reminder alerts (an hour before, a half hour before, etc.) and how often you want the event replicated (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.). Easy Calendar even lets you invite other people to events, automatically sending them an e-mail as a reminder.

Errands

This app is particularly gratifying because it allows me to map out my day chronologically and then check tasks off as I complete them. I also like that this app gives you a few short “bells” when you have not completed a task and will put them under a column marked “Overdue.” All tasks can be prioritized (low, medium and high) and if you are hyper-organized, they can be put in different “folders” and have notes attached to them.

Notes

Don’t underestimate the usefulness of this pre-installed iPhone app. Anytime I have a random thought, need to make a list of things to pick up from the store or don’t want to forget the name of a song I want to download, I refer to “Notes.” Ahh yes, the power of the “pen.”

The High Cost of Health

So, I am truly grateful for health care reform and all accompanying initiatives that our President has brought forth recently. However, wellness on the daily is still expensive.

It’s no wonder so many poor people are overweight and have all the ailments to go with them. Healthy living is expensive! I am blessed to have a full-time, salaried job but I still consider myself “poor.” Thankfully, I have enough money to buy fresh produce and grains that haven’t been bleached and processed beyond nutritional recognition. Still, sometimes I do have to make “either-or” decisions in the market and organic options? For. Get. It.

When I go in “Yes! Organic Market!,” I usually walk out with two items or less because all the meat, dairy and produce there costs nearly twice that of similar products in mainstream grocery stores. So, pesticides and hormones it is! I try to be as healthy as possible but at what cost? Not being able to pay my rent?

Then, I think about the MASSES of people who are less fortunate than I. No wonder they are eating whatever parts of the animal they can get their hands on, frying stuff with canola oil instead of sautéing with olive oil, and relying almost wholly on boxed and canned goods for sustenance.

My friend/hairdresser, who I consider a health FIEND, helped me understand that it costs more to produce foods that are free of chemicals and additives because these aren’t the foods that are mass-produced. They are a rarity. And when you add in the cost to ship them? Yikes. So, I will give “The Man” a pass this time, but I still think we need to come up with a way to make healthy options more accessible to the average Joe and the below-average Joe, too.

The New Workout Plan

So for the New Year, I am DETERMINED to tone up and slim down. For years now, I’ve been in a cycle of being in really good shape for a few months and then feeling like a beached whale for a few months, round and round. I’ve always been a pretty good eater (hence the thighs). No, but seriously I have never been big on junk food and sweets. I’d rather have a well-balanced meal. I love vegetables, I don’t eat much fried food, I try to buy as many whole grains as possible, etc. So, while I am consistently conscious about what goes in my mouth (giggity), my fitness routine has been sporadic at best. Yes, I have a pretty busy schedule but the excuses are out the window and the sports bra is on.

That being said, I have set the goal of spending at least an hour in the gym three times a week. Thankfully, I love my new gym. Not only is the equipment top-notch but the layout is aesthetically pleasing. The first floor boasts spacious and accommodating locker rooms, a big pool, dance studio and several options for getting your cardio on. Upstairs, you’ll find all the weight equipment and two more dance studios. The first floor opens up to high ceilings at the spiraling staircase and in the background are high windows that go from wall to wall. This allows nosey passerby such as myself to stare creep-ily at everyone in the pool and on the pool deck. I would’ve taken pictures of the place but apparently, management frowns upon people snapping shots in the facility. Something about people’s “privacy” or what not. This is what the outside looks like:

Anyway, I don’t have a set routine but I have found some things that really work for my areas of concern. Sometimes, I grab a 10 lb. weight and hit a few sets of squats or use the medicine ball to do some leg raises.

In terms of weight training, I will try any machine once but I am a little more particular when it comes to cardio. See, I hate running. I know it gives you a great total body workout or whatever but I hate it — especially on a treadmill. I don’t mind doing a mile or so outside on a nice spring day, but that’s about it. I love the elliptical, though, and I recently discovered the joys of the stairmaster and Jacob’s Ladder. Both of these exercises bring on a good sweat and help you tone up.

Anyway, feel free to stop by LA Fitness (formerly Bally’s) in Wheaton to take in the fabulosity. if you happen by during the evening rush hour, I’ll probably be there — panting and grunting my way to sexy.