Archive | June, 2013

Gurl…Octavia, Baldwin and me

5 Jun

The other night I took Baldwin to the city for a book industry party hosted by People magazine. We met Octavia Spencer, the Oscar-winning actress from The Help. It was thrilling for Baldwin and exciting for me because Octavia is a real deal talent and appears to be a real person. After chatting it up with Baldwin, I was introduced and Octavia and her stylist commented, Benilde Little, Good Hair, love that book. It’s a classic. I was flattered and floored.


As the actress and I were talking, Baldwin was snapping pictures. At the end of the night, when I looked at them, sliding her iPhone from one image to the next, the body language between us became more and more intimate. It went from:

“I’m just got back from Cannes.”

“I just sold my next book.”

To gurl–



“You lost weight.”

“I love your hair.”

Saying gurl can an exclamation point; at the end of girlfriend’s sentence when she’s telling you something scandalous or heinous.

Or it maybe it’s at the beginning of  a sentence:

“Gurl, I’m so tired I’m goin home to get in my bed (an actual overheard comment from the actress Jennifer Lawrence who was calling it a night mid-NAACP Image Awards.)

Or it’s just, I feel comfortable with you.

It’s shorthand among Black American women, at least it used to be.

I’m sure there are White women who say it, but only one of my White girlfriends does: “What’s up, gurl,” my friend Mary Beth says whenever she calls me. It sounds completely authenic.

I think we can all agree that most pop culture began with Black people. The blues (where the Rolling Stones admit they got their sound), jazz, dance, even PSY, the Korean sensation’s dance video, Gangnam style, is influenced by crunking.

Now, it appears that gurl has crossed over.

Calm Down Gurl, is the name of the comedian Kathi Griffin’s new Bravo TV special.

Full disclosure: I didn’t always use the term. Actually I’m a fairly recent user. In shaping who I wanted to present in the beginning of my professional life as a serious reporter and then a magazine editor, it wasn’t something Ifelf comfortable saying.

I remember reading Terry’s (McMillan) first books and particularly Waiting to Exhale, and thinking my friends and I don’t say gurl. Well, in 20 years, I’ve changed and so has my vernacular.

I still only say it to intimates, and when I do, there’s something about the way it comes from somewhere around the diaphragm that feels good.

Could gurl become the international female version of “yo.”

Does it work for you? Works for me.


Cannoli, Breakfast of Champions

1 Jun

I am just back from a vitally needed vacation. I went to Los Angeles to visit my oldest, dearest friend Joni. My plan was to pretty much do nothing. I needed to give my brain a chance to re-boot and Joni understood that. We did just enough. We walked on the beach, went to the movies, rented movies (I fell asleep 30 minutes in both times). I had my beloved alone time and read a good, new novel. I went to lunch and dinner with a tiny number of friends, eating good, healthy and inexpensive food.  I ate so many variations of kale, I decided that it must be the official food of California.

I’m addicted to sugar and occasionally have to detox. I work at eating healthy food and try to get my kids to do the same. Baldwin doesn’t crave sugar and mostly eats well. Cliff and I don’t eat red meat (although I will cheat for a great burger on occasion). Baldwin has never eaten red meat in her life. My Ford, on the other hand, would live on sugar if I let him. He loves candy almost as much as his Xbox and dessert–cannoli, apple pie–rank right up there with his love of baseball. He had no interest in following our no red meat edict and as early as six, when he first had his own seat at our neighbor’s dining room table, he’d chow down on steak. He tricked our friend’s teenage daughter Rachel, who used to baby-sit, into getting pepperoni put on his pizza. He does like my sauteed spinach and will eat the crunchy veggies I pack in his lunch, but too often I’m exhausted from the constant negotiation: you eat all your salad and broccoli and you can have another piece of cake.

As much as Cliff and I have a marriage that is equal in most ways, I, like the vast majority of women, still do the primary childcare. However, when I go away, Cliff usually takes over the routine. This time though, when it came to meals, there were lots of  trips to the Tick-Tock diner.

When I’d speak to them over the phone while I was away, I didn’t ask about food. I asked those questions when I got home. I knew the answer was going to be bad when I asked and Ford and Cliff quickly looked at each other. The grins were guilty.

“So, what’d you have for breakfast?” I asked Ford.

“Cannoli,” he blurted. He cannot keep a secret.

“Cannoli Cliff, really?”

He twisted his lips as if he was trying to find a somewhat reasonable answer, an explanation that would make me understand how in any universe cannoli is an appropriate way to start the day.

Instead he and Ford laughed and Ford explained.

“See we’d go to Tick-Tock and I’d get two to go, one for breakfast and one to take in my lunch.”

It was worse than I thought.

But, here’s what I know.

When I go away, I can’t expect to be in charge. It’s about surrender and it’s good for all of us. The kids get to see Dad as the primary nurturer and understand that Moms need to have a life that doesn’t revolve around them.

And, missing a few balanced meals is okay. Ford still managed to pitch well and even had a pick-off (that’s when a pitcher is on the mound and throws out a player who’s standing off first base in order to attempt a steal to second.) I hate that I missed seeing it.

Toward the end of my visit, Joni and I luxuriated at a day spa in a swimming pool, sulfur and mud baths and finished off with long Jacuzzi soaks. Our 40-year friendship also got some major quality time.


When I came home my family, including Charlie, met me at the airport. I looked at them and was breathless at how beautiful they are–inside and out.

I took a deep breath and was simply, utterly grateful.