Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Mzungu

I saw a white dude with a t-shirt that said Mzungu.   Now most people would not know what this shirt meant.   It's probably just a funny word to them.  I -- having worked in Southern Africa -- knew this was the word for white people said by Africans.   As I continued to look I noted that the shirt was in fact from Tanzania. So it probably did mean what I thought it meant.   Being that I live in Asheville -- Home of hippies, hipsters,  and people who will sing along with you at the gas station (that actually happened) -- I figured I would ask.

"Excuse me,  I noticed that your shirt says Mzungu and is from Tanzania.  Since I worked in Southern Africa I know that means white person.   I was just wondering why you would wear that shirt."
White guy looks awkward "Yeah it's from Tanzania,"
"I was just wondering why you would wear a shirt that pretty much just says white guy."
He now looks even more uncomfortable and starts to ramble.  "Oh well, it reminds me of being in Tanzania when I was at this awesome snake ranch, we were hiking,  and this kid bought me this shirt . . .  It reminds me of good times I had there . . . It's not racial."

At this point I could tell he was feeling pretty uncomfortable.  He probably had never thought about his shirt before or that someone would ask him about it. I could see clearly one of the Peace Corps Guys wearing a T-Shirt that said OshiLumbu ironically. (Actually I think the group before us did make those shirts ironically.)  They would've probably noted that's what they were called all the time and laughed.  I tried to give him an opportunity to let him in on the joke.

"I just saw the shirt and knew the meaning and wondered if you were wearing it ironically, or if you were wearing it just for the memories."
"Just for the memories."

So he was not in on the joke.  This is was probably a white male who had never thought about it.  I realize that most of the white men in my life have had to recognize their color and privilege at some point. My husband who wears "Not an accurate representation of a white person" T-Shirt ironically.  My best friend who I had frequent debates with in High School.  While he was coming out and we discussed our disadvantages, I told him that walking down the street no one could tell he was gay, but everyone could tell I was black.  That statement pretty much ended the debate.  All of the guys in Peace Corps had to deal with their whiteness on a daily basis.  But this guy had probably never really thought about it.

I could tell he was uncomfortable; in retrospect I wish I had let him sit with his discomfort.  Why shouldn't he think about his whiteness, or how what he wears means something.  But on instinct if rushed in to make him feel better.  I joked about how I was called Oshilumbu myself even though it means white person.  How my Namibian students told me I was not black.  His female companion joined and we laughed it off has he left the area and I could order my coffee.

But I wish I had let him sit in his racial discomfort.  I wish as a Black American Woman my training and instinct was not to make sure that the white guy is okay, even in this small moment of discomfort.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Reconciliation

Today in the shower I had a reconciliation of sorts.  I said "yay thighs."   Now for most people such a statement may not mean much, but for me that was monumental.  I have not had the best relationship with the top half of my legs.  It probably started around the age of 10.  As I started to develop, having a little bit of curves was something I wanted.  Mostly I wanted breasts (irony), but a booty was okay too.  However what I did not forsee was the mental havoc that would be wrought by my legs.

Honestly it may not have even been a thing, if it wasn't for Shane Parish. (That's right I just name dropped) My parents moved from the country to the suburbs of Cincy when I was 9.  I went from inner-city (primarily Black-American) elementary school to E. H. Greene in Blue Ash (primarily white).   This transition was hard enough (changing classes every 2 weeks because they put me in remedial classes, working my way back up to gifted classes, trying to find new friends, riding the bus for the first time instead of walking), but gym class made it that much harder.

 We had gym on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  We were all working for the presidential fitness test: running a mile, sitting up, pushing up, trying to do pull ups.  You know all the "up" things.   Over the summer I had started to wear a bra (ooh) and had more weight on my legs.  I honestly did not think about my thighs much other than wearing cords or track suits that now made sounds as I walked.  But when I stepped into the gym I now heard every step echo.  The green gym shorts were not the most flattering either. However what made it life scarring was Shane Parish calling out "Here comes Large Marge with Thunder Thighs," every time I walked into the gym.   It was terrible.

Even now my heart rate increases thinking about the anxiety caused by trying to figure out when to walk into the gym.  Was there a way to walk in without him noticing?
With a group of girls - nope.
Right before the bell - nope.
Maybe super early before anyone else was out - well I just never changed that quickly.
Suddenly for the second half of the year I came down with a terrible illness Wednesday night which would cause me to miss school for Thursdays and many Fridays.   If I went to school I would be sent to the nurse before PE with a fever up to 101.9.  My parents took me to my pediatrician, Cincinnati Children's and specialists trying to figure out what was wrong.  I had tons of lab work done, which I enjoyed more than walking into the gym.  Suddenly when I started the summer and then went back to school in 6th grade when Shane was no longer in my class I didn't have the end of the week illness.

Only when I was in medical school did I learn that this is a common and normal coping strategy for children.

Though I no longer had to hear him say those words; the image and the sound stuck with me.  I stopped wearing shorts in the summer and only wore long baggy pants.  Luckily it was the 90's and this was the style.  I gave up on wearing women's clothing and shopped in the men's section where I could buy a 40+" waist which I knew would go over my hips.  All of my skirts or dresses had to go below the knee.  That experience started anxiety, stress, and dislike of my thighs which so far has lasted over a quarter of a century.

In college I came to terms that my thighs were never going to change size and get smaller (my hip bones are actually set wider than others) and they were either going to be fat or muscle.  So I danced and worked to make my thighs as much muscle as possible.  But I still didn't like them.  I actually managed to lose weight in Peace Corps, but still didn't like my thighs.   I did yoga and jumped rope in India, and fortunately saris and most Indian clothing covers the entire legs so less worries.  I was getting my legs waxed regularly and there are few things worse than holding your fat taut so someone else can remove hair.

In pubic health school I started volunteering at Shadowbox.  (If you live near Columbus Ohio and don't know what this is do yourself a favor and go)  Shadowbox (Sketch Comedy and Rock & Roll) is known for having people of all sizes in all costumes.  So I had some fun and got into the spirit.  I forgot my pants one day and needed to borrow the skirt from one of the cast members.  I was amazed to find the skirt fit when I always thought she was way smaller than I.  So as a volunteer with fishnets I showed my thighs for the first time in years.
 

I still pretty much only show above the knee for performance or costume.  But with continued exercise and time I got to the point where I don't actively hate my thighs.  I can appreciate what they do for me on a daily basis; start to like them.  I can even say "yay thighs."

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Nov 9 2016 3:30 am

I am scheduled to get my IUD taken out Thursday.  It's a little more complicated because they can't find the strings; I have to go over to the Ob's and have a ultrasound an likely paracervical block.   It is likely going to suck.  What is worse that now I have to scramble to see if I can get a new IUD placed.

I don't let myself get excited about things until it is really happening.  Travel, new adventures, even graduations I don't acknowledge until I'm in the moment.  I also am an over planner. I've been looking at pregnancy and labor information for the last 18 months.  I'm 36 and my fertility is falling (not as fast as it will in a few years) but fast.  As I've told others it is time to poop or get off the pot.

But now I feel 30 minutes into a Trump presidency that it would be irresponsible for me to try to conceive.  We were alway dubious given the world as it is: global warming, overpopulation, the state of Black American life.  But people were at least talking about change and possibility, and my time was getting short.  I have been worried for sometime about what could happen to me and my family with police violence.

I keep hoping that something will come up and prove that this is an error.  That the country that I live would not elect someone who has committed sexual assault, suppresses minorities and endorses violence.  I recognize that this is without the voting rights act and gerrymandering occurred, but Hillary ceded.  I don't know what could change in the next 24 hours that would make me trying to conceive responsible.

I am genuinely sad and mourning not just for my country but for my personal loss.  Maybe in a year things will look reasonable again, and I will feel okay possibly conceiving.  But of course my fertility will be even lower at that point and it will be less of a chance.

Damn it I really wanted to try.  

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

"Are You Ready, Are You Excited?"

These are the two questions I've heard repeatedly for the last 2 weeks and up until now they have just made me want to scream, "NO, I have a list of about 1400 things that still need to be done and right now I'm just exhausted and daunted."   Somehow in the last 36 hours I've actually started to realax.  I know part of it is because I've had awesome help from friends.  I can't tell if we are through the storm or if we are just in the eye.  My loving husband to be has become a full fledged and embraced the fact that he is a groomzilla.
 So in between creating detailed notes for our posse so they know what they are doing I have to keep reminding him that he won't be there to make sure it is done correctly.  We'll be taking pictures :-).   Meanwhile my wedding has become a full fledged family event.  So I knew they were going to have a celebration for my Aunt's 80th birthday the afternoon of the day after the wedding.  But what I was not expecting that my informal Sunday brunch to become the formal celebration for her birth.  I also get company when getting my nails done, but not for the bride to be, to celebrate my cousin's birthday.  So now members of my family are now talking about how great it is to be there to celebrate everyone else and I'm thinking. . . Is it wrong to think my wedding weekend should be about my future husband and me?   Alright back to washing dishes and getting ready for the weekend.  So am I ready and I excited. . . I'm starting to be.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Unforeseen Wedding Crazies and Match Day Results

So,  I see myself as a pretty low key non-stressy bride.   I intend not to be a Bridezilla and have made it so those participating in my wedding have max flexibility.  For example,  I'm not choosing dresses for my party but allowing them to chose their own within a certain color spectrum.  So far my fiance has been way more of a Groomzilla with demands that no sneakers be worn and that certain members of the party should wear hats, and freaking out when little things don't come together.

However, there is something about weddings that make people lose their sense of agency and need to ask the bride about every little thing.  I've been asked everything from what shoes (which I think is reasonable) to how to wrap our wedding present (which is not).   It's like we are Ta'veren and everyone is just waiting for our approval.  More frustrating is the lack (possibly American lack as I've talked to others before) of ability to look things up.  Though the website is chock full of info and we've sent out numerous emails & google docs with information people still ask me.  Even though I've clearly said in other emails that I don't have this information, people still ask me.
 Apparently I was looking so defeated today that everyone seemed to feel the need to console me and tell me not to worry.  All of our service people have been super excited and we're crossing fingers for no rain next Saturday.

Of Match Day I will be heading down to wonderful Asheville, NC to join the Mountain Area Health Education Center MAHEC.  That's right I get to be warm have a beautiful view, southern hospitality, in a hippie liberal refuge. That's right it's NC version of Austin or Yellow Springs on steroids.  :-)  Here's a shot before we found out where were going.
Now we're heading to Shadowbox for a combined Bachelor Bachelorette-esque party.  Can't wait to chill out and have some fun. On other news I gave a successful talk on White Privilege to FreeThought thanks to TWIB NET. Shout out to the chatroom and all my wonderful friends who are helping me remain sane by tying ribbons and gluing corks.  ONE WEEK LEFT.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

3, 2, 1 AHHHHHhhhhhhh

So I'm at O'Hare airport on my way to Kansas City for AAFP's cluster, and I stil can't get myself to focus enough to completely read through last year's report.  So apparently I'm blogging

For the last couple weeks I've been having fun saying , "In 4 months I'm graduating, 3 months getting married, 2 months Matching, and going to  Swaziland in 1 month.  Then it all crashed down.  Wait no, not 4 months, 3.  I'm going to Swaziland next month (which is a whole other discussion) . . Ahhh wait no I did again.  I'm going to Swaziland next week.  Actually this time next week I'll be landing in Johannesburg.  So with the realization I'll be basically out of touch with everyone for a month I've been trying to get things squared away.  Like emailing the entire family to RSVP for the wedding since for some reason most of my family didn't.  This is especially important since we have an A, B and C list and people keep wanting to bring guests.  120 people can come to the wedding.  That is it we are against fire codes here people. 

To add to the craziness I have to make sure my schedule is finalized. Work on my talent show entry (since I am the reining champion for the last 3 years).  Make sure my research FINALLY gets through IRB so I can graduate. And oh yeah at some point I should pack for leaving the country.  But wait there are some wedding things that I need to tend to before I go.  And I have to turn in my badge for my Women's Health elective and, and and . . . . 

At least my Rank list is done.

I'm pretty sure I don't look as crazed as I feel since Airport Security haven't dragged me away yet.  Okay.  I'm going to get back to actually preparing for the thing happening later today.  Fingers crossed there are no more delays. 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Wedding in less than 3 months!!


 So my wonderfully DIY wedding seems to becoming less and less so by the week.  So first we were going to do a DIY photobooth.  Then my great friend Jared found me an amazing photographer for a very reasonable price so we had it in the budget to just rent a booth.   Now the dessert buffet that we were going to have Stephan's Dad make for us.  But he said he's not going to be able to take the time off and is willing to just pay for us to have a local Baker make the desserts using our recipes.  On the up side we are still mostly local, and of course there is the center pieces etc that are all DIY as well.   Finalized my wedding hair style today :-) Which will be a slightly messier version of this.  Now I just have to figure out my make-up and underwear and I will be all ready for the wedding . . . well ready look wise.  I still have to do favors and a bunch of other stuff as well.

Meanwhile on the Residency front Stephan and I are going to sit down and figure out what we are putting first 2nd and third tomorrow.  And enter the RANK LIST.  I have my fabulous Excel spreadsheet and residency rater app to help.  Which has me down to a top 3, but figuring out after that may be harder.  Hopefully I'll get it done.