And now, a word about John Mayer, because enough hasn’t been said about him. Seriously.

Before you say anything, yes, I know.

I know the whole John Mayer thing has been done to death. I know he’s a total idiot. I know that we shouldn’t take seriously anything what he says.

I know there are thousands upon thousands of blogs out there saying exactly what I’m going to say here. I know that what I say here won’t add anything new to the outcry, that there’s a good chance it will get lost among all the comments and the mocking and the boycotts and the suck-it-ups.

But it’s been a long time since I had a good rant at the Cafe,  and I need to get this out of my system so I can move on with my life. Because frankly, it’s bugging me.

Personal life detail rant to follow. Standby. Standby…

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A long time ago, I realized I was attracted to white guys.

How I came to that realization will have to be the subject of an different post. Suffice it to say, by the time I reached college, I was open to the thought that I would most likely date and marry a white guy.

Most of the family advice I got at the time was along the lines of "you’re setting yourself up to get hurt". And it was true—my heart got broken over and over again by guys who weren’t interested . My least favorite were those who were open to interracial relationships, but only wanted to date Asian girls. The worst? Those who were open to interracial dating, and then would proceed to point out—to me—girls they would like to date. "She’s cute," they would say, pointing to a girl walking by. Or they would talk and talk about some girl they met, how pretty she was, etc., etc.,

And really, all I heard was, "This girl is so much prettier than you, LaShawn. This girl is far more attractive than you. You’re a nothing, LaShawn. You don’t have long hair and you don’t have porcelain skin and you’re not slender. You’re not pretty, so let me just say you’re a friend and hey, let me tell you more about this girl that you’ll never, ever will be—"

And now, years and years later, here’s John Mayer. I already knew he was a jerk, but prior to the Playboy article (or the Rolling Stone article), I didn’t really care all that much, because I liked Room for Squares. But that article dredged up those same emotions of self-doubt and low self-esteem. Part of this could be that my church is doing a sermon series on freeing oneself from the past, so the past has been on my mind a lot.

What surprised me, though, was how upset I got over the interview. Upset and angry. At first, I was so upset that I considered tossing out all my John Mayer CDs. Then I posted a link from Salon that I thought adequately summed up my feelings. After I posted the link, though, I did a little more thinking about it, and realized, no it didn’t.

With all the images that are bombarding around us on what’s considered "standards of beauty", I’ve gone throughout my life ignoring those standards. They didn’t apply to me, and I soon learned that those who searched for those high standards weren’t worth my time. It took me a long time to figure out the beauty standard for myself.

I’d forgotten that in my past, while I knew guys who broke my heart, I also knew guys who really, genuinely liked me. And I did date. The past has a tendency to do that—dredge up all the worst parts of itself, but not the best. And one of those guys I dated liked me so much, he asked me to marry him. For the past eleven years, he tells me every day how beautiful I am. He ogles me, treats me like a queen, and does everything he can to seduce me into his arms.

Thinking about that makes me feel sort of sad for John Mayer.

He’s living the rock and roll life, and predictable, it’s turned him into a douche. Or maybe he was like that beforehand, I don’t know.  But he’s pretty much closed himself off to any black female relationship. Oh well. Maybe it’s for the best. Shame really. He don’t know what he’s missing.

As for me, I can honestly say that at age 38-soon-to-be-39, I have never felt more beautiful. Part of it is my hubby telling me so, yes. Part of it is also the locs, which, if you allow me for pure indulgence, I absolute rock in. But most of it, I think, stems from the fact that I’m a writer. I’ve claimed that as an essential part of myself, and it has given me confidence that I never had before. Or maybe it’s because I’m older. I don’t know. But I don’t need John Mayer, or any celebrity, or anyone in media, or anyone period, to dictate to me what standard of beauty I need to rise to. I find that in the gifts God’s given me, in my personality, in my health, in the way I take care of myself, in my laughter, and my love.

Oh, and my locs. Because I have to stress it again: I rock the locs.

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Personal rant over. Returning to regular blog.

Well, I had a post all set for updating things on Willow and my other writing projects, but that will have to wait until next time. Thanks for letting me rant. I think I’m going to give my hubby a big hug…and other things that cannot be mentioned here…

Thoughts on Wiscon 33

It’s been a pretty eventful couple of weeks for me. Last week, we took a vacation to Cedar Campus and it was the first time that I actually had fun with Daniel there.  I mean, I’ve enjoyed my time up there before, but for the most part, Daniel didn’t seem to care too much about it until this year. Perhaps there is something about when a child turns five years old that suddenly, they become more interested in the world around them, instead of it always being me, Me, ME! So we had a nice vacation.

But before that, I got a chance to spend a single day at Wiscon. Well, technically, I started the night before, when I went to a reading by Ellen Klages and Geoff Ryman. But from that one single day, I could tell something right away:

This is a con I need to go to. Permanently.

I got to sit in the same room with several other black female authors who all write speculative fiction. And they run the gamut too…from vampire stories to epic fantasy. Epic Fantasy!!! It was so nice to find peers who are like me.

I got to participate in a writer’s workshop moderated by Alaya Dawn Johnson, who gave me some great advice regarding Willow (and finally convinced me to ditch the prologue. Sigh…but it will be worth it). Plus, I got to hear her read the best kick-ass zombie story ever that will never make me look at macaroni and cheese the same way again.

I got to chat a bit with K. Tempest Bradford while she was at a dealer’s table, and I got her to sign her short story she did in Sybil’s Garage #8, "Élan Vital".

I got to have dinner with Tiptree Award winner Nisi Shawl and N.K. Jemisin. The former I had nearly embarrassed myself over by having a fangirlish conniption fit when I first met her Friday night.  The latter has a book, "The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms" coming out next year (yayyyy!!! black female epic fantasy writer!!!). She also wrote a wonderful essay on RaceFail I raved about on a post a few weeks ago…

I got to hang out with my book club, Beer and Marmalade, which was cool because I don’t get a chance to do that often outside our meetings. I was bummed, though, that I wasn’t able to go to their party on Sunday to see Geoff Ryman <>.

And finally, SHAPENOTE SINGING!!!

There was a distinct different feel to Wiscon than the Oddcon I attended last month. Oddcon was more laid back, more casual, more geared to science fiction and fantasy in general. With Wiscon, there were numerous deep topics being discussed that I would have loved to participate in. Not just feminist in nature, but some hard topics like discussing the whole RaceFail issue and religion in fiction. It was very cool to not be the only black person there–in fact, there were several black folk who seemed to show up just for the fun of it, rather than being on a panel or a writer or anything. I wished I had time to get to know them. But the same type of community that was present at Oddcon was also present at Wiscon. It was pretty easy to walk up and talk to anyone, and the authors I saw were very approachable and easy to talk to. I wish I had a chance to take Ellen Klages up on her offer to go out for a beer and talk about writing, but I just ran out of time. It will have to happen next year.

So sorry for the truncated report. I’ve only been able to scratch the surface of the deeply rooted tree that is Wiscon. But one thing is definite–I do plan to go next year. I may even find a way to finagle myself on a couple of panels.

Wiscon 34…ho!

“Daughters of Sarah” up at Third Order Magazine!

Yeehaw! A new story!

I’m proud of this one because this was the first short story I worked on when I started writing again after Daniel was born. Actually, ‘short’ is pretty subjective. This one’s a bit on the long side.

I got the idea for this story back when I was at Roosevelt University. One of the elective classes I took was on Women in the Bible (at a college, of all places). I did a paper on Japheth daughter, the young woman who became a sacrifice just because she was the first one to run out to meet her father. The professor was skeptical that she was actually sacrificed–chances are, she went to the Temple to serve out the rest of her life–but I was always intrigued by the part where she asks to go with her friends to grieve, and that it became a tradition for Israelite girls to go ‘weep’ for this poor unfortunate maiden.

It took many years for me to sit down and flesh the story out to what it is now. Enjoy!

http://www.thirdorder.org/winter08/daugwana.html

Doppeldangers on the Net

Yesterday, I was reading one of my email newsletters and came across an essay written by a black woman musing about the birth of her biracial son. Intrigued, I decided to click on her weblog to see any more of her writings. The first thing that popped up was a picture of the woman, her husband and her newborn son.

It was like looking into an alternate universe and seeing myself.

The woman was slimmer, true, but she had lovely long locs spilling down her shoulders and her back. Her white husband had the same brown hair as mine, but he was a musician, not a computer guru. Their son gazed out into the camera with shocking green eyes, something that’s not in Daniel, but the curls and cappuccino skin I immediately recognized on my own son.

Furthermore, this woman is also a writer mama and have already published several essays, stories, and poetry, though she’s more a literary writer while I work in fantasy. She’s traveled to India whereas I’ve traveled to Africa. We may have passed each other in Rio, though. She lives on the East Coast, I in the Midwest. But the grade school picture she posted, we look eerily alike, right down to the pigtails. It’s in the eyes.

The first thought that popped into my head was Whoa, she’s just like me! The second thought was, Eep! She’s just like me!

How do I respond to that type of thing? Do I respond? Should I go to her blog, post a comment: “Hey! We share the same interest! Let’s be friends!” Or do I continue reading her blog from afar, mentally comparing myself against her? She has all these essays published and I only have a measly couple. She got this award for a story. I haven’t gotten anything. So far, she’s doing this and this and this. Me? I haven’t done diddly-squat…

That’s the funny thing about being unique. You strive so hard to stand out of the crowd, to not conform to whatever is around you. But in making yourself unique, you also become lonely, because you don’t share the same interests as the people around you. At the same time, however, when you do come across someone who is like you, you fear of losing your uniqueness. Suddenly, you don’t seem all that special anymore. Worse, you start comparing yourself to that other person, seeing them not as an ally, but as a potential threat.

I’m currently reading The 2006 Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror (much better than 2005), and I see there’s a story in there from a black woman. Haven’t read it yet–I took one look at the woman’s credentials and felt incredibly small. I can’t attain to her level of expertise. I can’t…I can’t…I’m no longer excited to meet someone in the same field as me. Instead, I’m scared and feeling very insecure. I simultaneously stretch forward and shy away.

Deep female relationships are very hard to come by. I think it’s especially hard for black women. You want to stretch your hand out in friendship, but at the same time, you don’t want to make yourself vulnerable. You don’t want to be hurt. It shouldn’t be that way. As a black woman, I should be supporting other black woman writers. Not that we are such a rare breed…boy, am I finding that out…but to help sharpen each other, to be mentors and commiserators. I shouldn’t be worried about losing my unique status. Granted, there are many black women out there who have accomplished more than me, but on the other hand, there are others who have done less than me. There are women who share my same interests, true, but I have yet to meet anyone who has the same lifestyle, the same family, the same anything as me.

It’s dangerous to compare myself to someone else, especially if that someone has a presence on the Net. I don’t know anything about that other person other than what they’ve put out there. But it doesn’t help me any if I see that person as a rival. If anything, I should be excited in knowing that there are other black women out there who are also on the writing path, that I’m not alone in that regard.

To this day, there’s a part of me that yearns to meet another black woman who’s into writing and anime and has a white husband. We could visit each other houses and talk about the challenges of raising bi-racial children, of finding our identities, and the last episode of Full Metal Alchemist. I don’t know if that ever, ever will happen. But I think I’ll go to this one woman’s blog and post a comment. Something along the lines of “Hey…I know exactly what you mean…”

“Tipped Off” is up at the Comfort Cafe!

My short devotional, “Tipped Off”, is up at the Comfort Cafe, complete with a headshot of yours truly.

That’s right, I’m steering you to another cafe website. Unlike here, the clientele is mostly for women, but they have good devotionals and wonderful articles, especially for women going through tough times. Think of it as a Christian Spa for the Soul.

Anyway, head on over and check out what they got. Nice way to start off October, eh?