A wedding brings back memories

I saw a little girl get married Saturday.

She was a 13-year-old babysitter who took my 3-year-old for long walks while I worked.

Then she was a 16-year-old high school student making decisions about her life.

Then she was a 19-year=-old college student – smart, funny, totally sure of her self. And then one night, she decided to go across the street to get something to drink. It was just a study break.

It happened in seconds. She never saw the police car that struck her. The car was involved in a high-speed chase that wasn’t allowed on the streets of Atlanta. The officer was driving in excess of 60 miles an hour.

It was the same night that Niki Taylor, the model and celebrity, was involved in a car accident. Niki Taylor’s serious injuries made all the magazines and newspapers. Carmen barely made it to the hospital.

She would be get better over two years, get to walk again again over five years.

And last Saturday, she walked down the aisle in a red & white ceremony that she planned herself.

She married a soldier. His fellow soldiers came in uniform. Two of them preceded her into the glorious atrium of a Dallas County office building that looked like a dream.

She danced the first dance with her husband beside a serene pool.

She and he cut a large multi-tiered red cake with white and gold decorations.

For three hours, through a glorious and short ceremony and a catered dinner, She was a testament to faith, love and the fact that only God knows.

And God knows we were happy to be there for that moment at a wedding that brought back memories, both bad and good.

But the good ones drowned out the bad ones.

And we never have to think about the accident again – until the next milestone, and we offer thanks again for how far she has come.

Three old men and a “baby”

I love it when an old man calls me “baby.”

I know that when it happens, the man means no harm, no offense, that he is remembering, that he is, for just a moment, living another time when he was a mack daddy and he called all the girls “baby.” He might have, for a moment, been thinking of his daughters or granddaughters and let me have their term of endearment for a moment.

The man, whenever and wherever he is, could have been my grandfather, who called me that almost every day. My grandfather was a gruff, hard-working man who raised two families and never complained. He called me baby and he called every boy and man in our town “Charlie.”

I was as amazed that he did it as I was that everyone let him. No matter who he saw, he’d cry out, “Hey, Charlie!” And they’d always say, “Hey!” – whether it was Donald or Nathan or Bridgers or Derek or Tony or Nino or Winston.

The man on the scooter looked nothing like my grandfather, save skin like ebony and a wonderful smile.

I was walking, Desi, The Wonder Dog, when I saw the old man this evening. He was on a scooter with a basket in front and his cane in back. He was bowed over his lap. My heart stopped. Had he died while out for a ride? I called over, “Sir, are you all right?”

Nothing.

I called louder, “Sir, is everything OK?”

And he stirred as if from sleep, because that is what it was. He raised his head, still looking forward, never at me, and raised his thumb in the universal sign of “Everything’s all right.”

I smiled and continued our walk. But before I got to the corner, the old man was flying past, doing at least 5 miles per hour. He was totally awake, vibrant, the lost moment gone. He turned and waved, “Hey baby, how ya doing?”

“Fantastic, sir!”

And like that, he had turned the corner and headed down the street. I am a writer, not a photographer. By the time I realized that I should get a photo of him and fumbled with my Iphone to take it, he was gone. Continue Reading

Give us your tired, your poor – and keep your reality TV

My friend, LC, and I were at it again this morning, lamenting the state of American television, which has been sharked to death by so-called reality shows.

What was making us happy? The fact that some networks are re-making some of our favorite TV shows (Dallas, Hawaii 5-0).  This means two things:

First, we’ll have even more great shows to add to our must-see TV list that already has: “The Good Wife,” “The Closer,” “Burn Notice,” “Suits,” White Collar” and “Rizzoli and Isles.”

Second, it might hasten the demise of fake reality TV. The difference? “The Amazing Race,” a travel game show, is good reality TV.

Any “Housewives” show? Baloney.

Reality? Really?

Seriously, if cameras followed us around all day, they’d see carpet cleaners come and go with the dog barking the entire time, us sitting with piles of papers paying bills, us putting away groceries, which these women never seem to buy. They’d see real desperate housewives trying to fit 30 hours worth of into a 24-hour day.

“We are CEOS of our homes, and our children have ballet recitals, dance recitals, swim lessons,” LC said. “And that’s what we’re doing.”

Moreover, she and I are both working moms, so we’re among the women who run the house and run companies or work at full-time jobs.

We don’t know any housewives who walk around in designer clothes on soccer day or drink champagne every weekend – even though some could if they wanted to. But they don’t because they’re too busy dealing with real life. And real life is not loud, unless it’s the children, or boisterous unless a football game is on or the children are moving. We don’t do battle in heels.

“At what event have we ever attended have we seen two women go at each other in a fistfight?” LC asked.

Not one. Not ever.

Critics have panned reality shows for years, pointing out that they’re scripted, not spur-of-the-moment, that we don’t see the real stuff, just the horribly embarrassing stuff that makes the audience laugh at these women who think they’re stars. Continue Reading

Plaintiffs in Wal-Mart case need to sue again – with feeling

It’s a good time for big business in America.

First, taxpayers provide the money to pay multi-million bonuses for CEOs that literally took the country to the brink of a second Great Depression.

Now, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that women fighting Wal-Mart could not sue for discrimination because too many women indiscriminately claimed that they were discriminated against.

The court threw out an employment discrimination class-action suit against Wal-Mart that sought billions of dollars on behalf of as many as 1.5 million female workers. The court, quite frankly, said the case was too big and didn’t offer enough evidence.

It was like saying: You can’t convict a serial killer of killing 1,000 people just because they were all connected to one person, they were all killed the same way and their families had complained about how that one person treated them.

Circumstantial evidence instead of specific evidence.

Continuing the murder analogy, each family would have to sue – in an O.J. Simpson case way – on behalf of each victim, flooding the courts with more than a million suits instead of allowing all the families to sue together. Or they’d have to include only women who had concrete proof of discrimination. That thinking protects an atmosphere of discrimination. But it leaves open a door to possibly end specific discrimination.

Specifically, according to a New York Times report on the decision, the court ruled five to four – right versus left – that the suit did not satisfy a requirement that there were questions of law common to the class of female employees. The fact that they all claim they were discriminated against wasn’t enough. They each had to prove they were discriminated against individually before they could join as a class to file for discrimination as a group.

Ideally, the decision seems fair: You wouldn’t want every woman who ever worked for Wal-Mart to join the suit just because. That would be like an attorney filing a lawsuit on behalf of every black person in America because all black people have been racially discriminated against. Continue Reading

And there you have it . . . . . Oprah’s gone

The show closed with a shot of Oprah picking up one of her beloved pooches and walking down a darkened hallway. Suddenly the TV shifted to WYFF News and a story about a missing woman.

Life has already moved on. And it feels so weird that I need to sit for a minute.

It feels like someone took down a traffic light that has been at the same corner for 25 years and you have to adjust your driving, or your favorite minister has retired and you’re trying to figure out whether to change churches.

Oprah Winfrey is gone.

She says she’s not really gone. She’s headed over to her own network. And since she has failed at nothing she has tried in her career, she will make a success of that.

But that daily conversation that was unprecedented in history is over. The Guiness Book of World Records stat for largest conversation will remain for a long time. Yes, more people watched Oprah say good-bye than the State of the Union (60 million vs. 26 million). And weekday afternoons won’t be the same.

Here’s what I wish for Oprah: What she wished for us: To live our best selves, to give to everyone what you want to come back to you and to wake up every day joyful at where you’re headed.

I had wanted to write her a letter, to tell her thank you for the times that needed a word of gratitude. I never did. But she had enough from millions of others to know that she made a difference.

I had wanted to make some suggestions about OWN:

Perhaps the syndicate would have taken a boatload of money to let her out of the contract that would have allowed her to do the final season of her signature show on her signature network.

Perhaps she could do a daily introduction of a new talk show, just so people could get that few minutes of her that they so crave. (I was available for that one).

Perhaps she’d found a publishing company so, instead of suggesting books for people to read, she’d publish books for people to read. (My book was available for that one.)

But Oprah doesn’t need advice from me. All Oprah needs is what she has had: the loyalty of fans whose lives she changed, whose spirits she lifted and whose laughter she elicited with ease. Continue Reading

Who’s your daddy?

I walk up to the counter at the hospital lab and immediately am asked for my insurance card, my driver’s license and a requisition from my doctor all to ensure that I am not trying to steal medical service and that I am not some needle junkie who gets blood drawn for fun.

I answer personal questions, always asked loudly, and confirm my address and phone number, hoping that the weird-looking guy behind me isn’t a pervert memorizing both.

And then I wait for it, because I know the question is coming:

“What is your marital status?”

I hate this question.

I hate it more than someone asking, “How far along are you?” after I’ve had a big meal or “I like your boots; is that a size 10?” while I’m on a date.

The other irritations are because of a lack of privacy and an over-sensitivity to having big feet.

But this query, in the 21st century, is an affront because it is an independence issue.

I have been responsible for my own care and feeding since I was 21 years old.  I spent four years at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a long, hot summer at the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. learning to be a great journalist so that I could always get a job. I’ve never not worked since my first job at the Greensboro Daily News, where I was hired before I even graduated.

So the question offends me, as does the reason for it:

“Why are you asking about my marital status?”

The young, blonde doing-as-she-has-been-told receptionist says: “It’s to find out who’s responsible for your bills.”

I swallow my frustration at her ignorance and say simply, “I’m responsible for my own bills.”

I hand her my insurance card and my driver’s license, the keys to my personal information.

And I fume.

I am not an overly sensitive person. I’m a newspaper columnist, so it is impossible for me to be.

Yet every time it happens, I get irritated and a little feisty.

And I get upset that the women – and it is usually a woman who asks – never understand why. Continue Reading

In memory of “Toys”

Among the great losses when your child becomes an adult is the loss of the children’s movies.

Or at least, that used to be a loss.

What I discovered during an early evening screening of “Toy Story 3” is something I’ve seen more of in recent years. Adults are enjoying children’s films without even bothering to drag their kids along.

I entered a 6:30 p.m. show to discover not one child in the theater, initially. But a few minutes into the previews, ah, there he was: a young man of about 5 sitting in the fourth row with his parents. But everywhere else in the theater, I saw couples, friends, almost everyone over 20, plenty over 40.

Just as the final preview ended, the couple in front of me was dismayed to hear a loud young voice ask: Where are we going? A trio of adults with a 3 or 4 year-old little girl had arrived late and was looking for seats. They were greeted with the kinds of looks popular kids used to give the nerds who had just grabbed their lunch in the school cafeteria.

The group sat in the row in front of me. A couple directly in front of me moved over a few seats, looking at the poor kid as if she’d just wandered into an adult club.

But they needn’t have worried.

Once the movie began, the entire audience was mesmerized, entranced possibly by their own memories of childhood and their own favorite toys. I worked hard not to sob at the end and was aided by the teenager two seats down who didn’t understand that every time she texted, the light from her phone was as big a distraction as if it had emitted a Drake ring tone.

I walked out as the credits rolled, reveling in having just seen a beautiful, beautiful film that remains the top movie in America, deservedly so. And I was so glad that I hadn’t decided to put children’s movies on the shelf because my daughter isn’t a child anymore.

Sometimes, it’s OK to remember your own childhood as much as your children’s.

A woman cave?

It was a Saturday afternoon, and my friend, Walter, had arrived so that we could go shopping for a new TV. The last time I bought a TV, Bill Clinton was president and “Survivor” was a hot new show.

We began our journey at a Meijer’s, which had one that I figured was perfect. We waited and waited for a clerk, before finally calling for help on a red hotline mounted on a nearby pole. A young woman came over. We asked the difference between an LED and a LCD set. She said: “I don’t know,” as if we’d asked how far to get to the moon.

She left to find somebody. We left to find a store with actual TV salespeople. We weren’t mad at her. We just knew that she’d drawn the short straw that forced her to leave the comfort of whatever break room she was in and that the next person would be no more eager to sell us a set than she. Thought we’d save them the time.

We headed to Best Buy.

Although their prices weren’t as low, their customer service got high marks after a knowledgeable young lady talked me through screen size and models and pixels and other features that one should consider before purchasing a set. I chose one that was only a little more expensive than the one I’d seen earlier. And we took it home.

Now, this is where the story gets a little funny and a little weird. I told Walter that the set was for my woman-cave, a female version of a man cave. He was, at the least, inordinately unimpressed, and at most, horrified.

“There is no such thing as a woman cave, and if there was, this wouldn’t be it,” he said sweeping his arm around at the books on every wall and the glass writing table in the corner.

“Why?” I asked.

“Man-caves,” he said, “are fun. This says work.”

Man caves, I told him, are for sloth. Most are dark places with big sofas and sports paraphernalia and ratty chairs that are impossible to stain. And they are for nothing but watching TV.

A woman cave, I told him, is a place of relaxation and refuge but also a place for intellectual stimulation. Continue Reading