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Living & Well-Being Archive

To Hide or De-Face the Homophobic

By Lydia Holt

I recently decided to hide a Facebook friend instead of de-Facing her altogether. I barely remember her from high school and don’t dislike her, but I couldn’t stand to read anymore of her hyper-religious posts. 


Roundtable: Engaging Students as Adults

Nichole: Lucinda would love your thoughts on this one (of course, everyone else can chime in). This post is by a black female professor who tackles the question of the role of liberal arts in higher education by focusing on how/where/when does learning taking place. She cedes some of the control of the classroom to her students and makes them responsible for reflecting on what they have learned over the course of a semester. 



Roundtable: Silence-- the Golden Opportunity to Demonize?

Nichole: Lydia hopefully you will start us off. The New York Times published an article discussing the tension between maintaining traditional religious beliefs and spiritual practices, here the Day of Silence, in the face of very modern challenges--rebuilding after terrorist actions, reconciling the "silence" of technology ("we can still SMS") with actual silence, tourism, among others. How do we make space for spiritual practice today? 


Living & Well-Being




The Mundanity of White Privilege

By Lydia Holt

As a black woman living in the US, I find that it is often easier to get through my day if I ignore the everyday incidences of misogyny and racism that abound in our society. If I didn’t, I fear I would lose my mind. I’m not talking street harassment or being called “nigger.” No, nothing as overt as that. I’m talking about the small things that could be easily explained away as a misunderstanding having nothing to do with race or gender. They are subtle and unconscious behaviors.

The other day, I apparently left my blinders at home, and two incidents stuck out in my mind as perfect examples of white privilege in action. Perhaps it is a result of following so many academics and cultural critics on Facebook and Twitter.

My sister and niece were visiting Brooklyn from the wilds of central New Jersey, and we were going out to eat but first made a stop at a bookstore. There were six of us altogether including my husband and two kids. As we were leaving the store, my husband held open one of the two doors for us. My sister, niece and oldest son went through the door while I lagged behind slightly, herding my three-year-old through the doorway. Another man was also leaving the store and began opening the other door. Meanwhile, a woman was trying to get into the store. She was clearly in a hurry as she tried to push past me and my child and ended up being hit by the other door in the process. The man apologized, and she made some sort of verbal acknowledgement of his apology before continuing to squeeze by us without a look or word of excuse for her own rude behavior.

Now, usually, I would say she was just being rude and impatient and that would be true, but only partially. My husband was holding open the door, so that was clearly the path of least resistance so I can understand her desire to use that door. But, here is the thing, had I been a white woman, would she have been so quick to bum rush us to get at those books? If my husband were black, would she have more easily made the connection that he was holding the door open for me and waited those few seconds it would take for us to clear the threshold? I’m not privy to her inner thoughts, so I will never know for sure, but that is how racism works. It’s not all lynchings and Jim Crow. It’s the entitlement. Her need to go where she wanted to go trumped all else. She made the unconscious assumption that I would move out the way for her and the door was being held open for her benefit.

After dinner, we went to another restaurant for dessert. The kids bounded down the sidewalk ahead of us singing “Gangnam Style.” My sister and I walked a little behind while my husband took over herding responsibilities guiding them into the restaurant flight attendant style, one hand pointing at the open door, the other gently waving them inside. A couple that had been walking near us and were heading to the same place waited and smiled as the kids walked into the restaurant. My sister and I were a few steps behind and had to cut in front of the couple as they attempted to follow behind my husband. Of course there was no way for them to know that we were all together, but again, if we had been two white women, would they have given us the benefit of doubt and waited for us to either pass by or go inside? I don’t know. But given that my husband is white, he was with three obviously non-white children, and being trailed by two black women.... Perhaps I am expecting too much of their observational skills and over-thinking the situation, but that is precisely how all -isms and systems of oppression work, isn’t it? They, ever so subtly, put you in your place over and over again until you begin to do it to yourself. Until you begin to make excuses for the behavior.

I am sure that the woman and the couple are lovely people and would be the first to say they aren’t racist, and I am sure they even know some black people and may even call them friends (that old chestnut). But I can guarantee you that they are not at home blogging about what happened because for them, nothing happened. There were no incidences. They go about their days without ever thinking about their race and how they are being treated as a result of their race. White privilege offers you the luxury of always assuming the door is opened for you and not thinking twice about it.


Side Dish: The Miracle That Is Beer Bread…Who Knew?!

Since I was a kid, I have spent a portion of my Saturday watching cooking shows. Back then it was Julia Child and Jacques Pépin on our local PBS station. Of course, I have many more options now than I did a little more than thirty years ago—Food Network, Cooking Channel, TLC, etc.—so many cooking shows, so little time.

I had all but forgotten about the cooking magic that happens on my once-beloved PBS until a few weeks ago when I watched an episode of Sara’s Weeknight Meals. The show was all about sandwiches. The host, Sara Moulton, said she would be making something called beer bread. I was intrigued and transfixed by the idea. The recipe was so simple. Of course, Sara's bread looked great—she had the magic of television on her side. I was skeptical, but I knew I had to try it—so, I did.

Photograph by Ali at GimmeSomeOven.com

I reduced the recipe by half (professional bakers advise against tinkering with the measurements in this way). If it didn’t turn out well, it would be better to have a small loaf to throw out rather than a large one.

Fortunately, the bread was a huge hit. It goes fantastically with a bowl of chili. Absolutely delicious! Unfortunately, I finished the loaf before realizing I should take a picture. So, the picture is not mine—but this loaf looks a lot like mine did.

Next time, I’m going to try adding scallions or onions. It may also work with cinnamon and raisins. The possibilities are almost endless!



Why Are You Single?

By Karima E. Rustin 

Created by Charles SchultzWhy are you single? There you have it, the most repeated question I’ve heard for the past five years. My marital status fascinates, befuddles, and annoys quite a number of friends, colleagues, family members, and even random people. The belief is I should be coupled with someone; why would an attractive 35 yr-old woman with a sparkling personality choose to stay single? What can I say, I’m a late bloomer. As a teenager and in my early 20s, my goal wasn’t to meet a guy, get married, and have children. I didn’t imagine my adult life as a potential wife and definitely not as a mother. So I was attracted to strange men who were wildly eccentric and unreliable. I wanted to hang out with guys who had the same likes and dislikes in film and music, and who showed talent in the "midnight exercises" department.

Then two events happened in my life; I became a big sister at 24, and I lost a parent at 26. I realized tending bar was not my ideal job, not something I wanted to do when I reached 30. I sat myself down to figure out what the hell I wanted to do with my lifeJesus! What a loaded question!so, I made some changes and now I wake up and commute in the morning to a job like most people do, a job that provides health insurance and two weeks paid vacation.

Great, I can check that off my “to do” list. Now for dating; my best friend convinced me that I really wanted to have a family but was afraid to admit it. Plainly, I was afraid to believe in it. I grew up with a single mother, a grandmother separated from her husband, and when I look back, I don’t recall seeing that many married couples actually together. I had no frame of reference, how do people come together and then stay together? I had no idea what qualities I should want in a guy for husband material. I started observing relationships my friends were happily involved in, looking for clues as to how one should conduct themselves with another person they wish to marry. Lots and lots of counsel was given and I took extensive notes.

I jokingly told my sister I needed to find where all the unassuming millionaires where hanging out in NYC. She said “Go to a Tea-Party rally.” My best friend suggested taking a wine tasting class to meet men. Do you know who frequents wine tasting classes? An unsightly group of women who also think straight men sign up for these kind of classes but in actuality gay men are running the show.

Looking for further guidance, I’ve become transfixed with Millionaire Matchmaker’s Patti Stanger, and she is my kind of woman; loud, brassy, and so damn aggressive. She holds nothing back and I find her dating advice quite refreshing. She believes people should have 5 clearly defined non-negotiable terms when it comes to finding a partner. The non-negotiables (did I just make that word up?) can’t be physical attributes or what type of profession they should have. They are what you need in order to have a successful union: Do you want children? Do you want your children raised as Catholic or Jewish? Should they love sports because you have season tickets to Jets games or should they have the same desire to travel?

One day, after watching one riveting episode after another on a rainy Saturday afternoon, I was inspired to write down the essential elements needed for me to fully commit to a man:

1. To make a great impression, you have to impress the two most important people in my life: my older sister Nichole and my best friend Cassidy. Nichole is offensively intelligent, soft-spoken, a voracious reader, and when she has something important or meaningful to say, she prefaces it with “Dude!” If Nichole doesn’t find your banter witty enough, she makes no qualms about tuning you out, she will even be so bold as to walk out the room, she much prefers to get back to her reading. Cassidy is a scrappy chick from upstate NY whom I met 14 years ago; for three months we worked together as bartenders and we’ve been together ever since. She introduced Nina Simone, crochet doilies, and booze into my life. She is the most loving, kind and creative person I have ever met. She finds my daily and inappropriate rants hilarious and was the first person in my life that I envisioned growing old with. If Nichole and Cassidy find you dull or your actions trifling, please know, we will christen you with an unflattering nickname and talk sh*t about you. Just take a look at the nicknames we have bestowed on past and present men in our lives: Forty-finger Forehead, Catty-Bitch, the Slow-Roast, Psycho-Boy, Shamrock Stomper, Chives & Shit, and my personal favorite, The Hump.

2. Cleanliness is next to Godliness: I have dated men with some disturbing bathing and grooming habits. I once dated a guy who didn’t see the need to take a shower on the weekends because he wasn’t going to work, so why bother. I dated another guy who would take several showers in a day but thought it was perfectly acceptable to wear the same boxer-briefs three days in a row, his moronic thinking gave me severe migraines. It got so bad that one day, as I watched him put on the same holey pair of briefs he wore the day before, I hissed through clenched teeth “This is ridiculous, do you have an ounce of common sense? I can’t bear to have sex with you anymore, let alone look you in the eye. Please put on a pair of clean underwear!” So please, I love nothing more than hugging up to a guy who takes his birthday suit to the cleaners on a daily basis.

3. Reading is fundamental. I’m in love with the written word and desire a guy who feels as passionately about books as I do. The wears-holey-underwear-three-days-in-a-row guy couldn’t get past the third chapter in any book he started (that and the underwear situation should have tipped me off that longevity was not possible). We don’t even have to like the same type of books. I love mysteries and thrillers, perhaps you like biographies and are a history buff. You can give me an abridged version on the life of John Quincy Adams. Heck, maybe we can even swap books. I will not judge your choices, just as long as you know how to read and enjoy it (OK, I promise I will try not to judge your choices).

4. Mop my floors: Watching a man do housework is the sexiest thing to see, bar none. I once dated a guy who was so beautiful, he was my black version of Brad Pitt. My girlfriends and I gave him the nickname, Brotha-Like-No Otha. Men, women and children couldn’t take their eyes off of him. He was an ex-Marine, and a city cop who wore super tight t-shirts and I worked real hard to concentrate on whatever he was talking about as I drooled over his masterfully-sculpted pectoral muscles. I was so weak to the flesh! Brotha-Like-No Otha was also a clean freak and once offered to clean my kitchen while he was hanging out at my apartment on his day off. That was dirtiest, naughtiest thing a man has ever said to me. Sadly, I had to break it off with Brotha-Like-No Otha, we had nothing in common, at all. But it was nice coming home that one day to freshly scrubbed floors.

5. Slow and Steady: When it comes to the art of midnight exercises, I am not looking for an acrobatic performer with quasi-dexterous limbs, or a guy treating the event like he is a Formula 1 racer, pistoning away. No, It’s not an audition to star in your own feature porn film. I’m getting old and have finally discovered what I need; consistency and someone who takes direction well. Slow and steady baby, slow and steady.

Then I remembered an interview I came across about a year ago. The actress Chloe Sevigny sat down with Playboy magazine and revealed the type of guy she is looking for: “I want a guy who is masculine, good with his hands and able to build stuff and who has survival skills. Facial hair is a big turn-on. Most of the kids I hang out with in New York are hipster arty types, but I like a stronger, more physically imposing man--like a lumberjack. I'm also into a little hair pulling. I like boys to be aggressive and allow me to be a little aggressive back.” Never in a million years would I believe that I would have the same taste in men as Ms. Sevigny, who I think has a wonky sense of style and a persistent snarky look on her face. How am I to find a Lumberjack who loves housework and daily showers, is a bookworm, not trying to break my back in bed and is emotionally confident enough to dazzle Nichole and Cassidy? And lives in Brooklyn no less?

God help me. 




To Hide or De-Face the Homophobic

By Lydia Holt

I recently decided to hide a Facebook friend instead of de-Facing her altogether. I barely remember her from high school and don’t dislike her, but I couldn’t stand to read anymore of her hyper-religious posts. She identifies as an extremely conservative Christian and clearly believes “homosexuality” is a sin and these are the end times…yeah. I’m not sure where she stands on evolution, but I get the feeling that she would call Darwin a heretic.

I have de-Faced others. One was a Facebook games friend who, I discovered upon checking out his profile, belonged to a group called “England for the English.” Nice! Another was someone I attended high school with, and frankly, he was always a bit of an ass. During a discussion about Facebook friends, someone suggested I just un-friend him if I thought he was such a jackass, and so I did, simple as that. He’s tried to re- friend me since then. Why? I haven’t a clue. I can’t imagine being that desperate for friend numbers.

It was so much easier when you would move to another city or state and it took some effort on your part to stay connected to those people you deemed important. In some cases, it’s great to reconnect to childhood friends, but they, unfortunately, seem to be followed by fringe acquaintances that creep, oh so subtly, into your daily life, spewing utter nonsense and half baked truisms all over your news feed, leaving you to wonder why you accepted their friend requests in the first place.

Well, I should have gone with my first instinct to just un-friend her and be done with the matter after she revealed herself to be a kooky anti-feminist (posting rebukes of feminism from men on YouTube to my post of a link to a Byron Hurt article on why he is a male feminist), homophobe, and possible religious zealot.

Months after I began hiding her, I posted a link to a blog post explaining why black people should support marriage equality. Now, I was raised as a Christian and as an adult am not religious. I do believe in God, so what she said next got my blood pressure up. The Hidden One, as I began to think of her, posted a comment stating that she was a Christian and therefore totally disagreed with gay marriage. She then proceeded to post another rambling comment about God’s omniscience and omnipresence. She explained that God knows if you’re acting on your homosexuality and having those pesky homosexual thoughts and urges, and that the Bible clearly states that homosexuality is a sin, and on and on.

I asked myself, is God really Tolkein’s Sauron, sitting on high in Mordor with an all-seeing eye rimmed in flame? If He is, she likes it that way, and I was beginning to feel like I had been taking crazy pills. As I mentioned before, this wasn’t the first time she’d commented on one of my “liberal” posts. I had responded to her anti-feminist comments by saying that I thought men talking about the evils of feminism was akin to white men saying racism/sexism doesn’t exist. She then commented with a typo-laden “sentence” that was indecipherable. Normally, I am more than willing to engage in a civil dialogue but in this particular instance it was clear that she had no intention of having a conversation. She only wanted to tell me I was wrong, this was why, and I had better change my mind. She probably mentioned something about me needing to be born-again and burning in hell if I wasn’t but I didn’t get that far.

I couldn’t read the rest of the comment; I was so angry. I deleted both her posts, immediately un-friended her, and changed my status to put any other nutjobs I may have accepted friend requests from, in the interest of being nice, on notice. My status now read, “Lydia Holt cannot abide homophobia disguised as Christianity. You can un-friend me now, or I can un-friend you after you try to preach at me, your choice.” If I hadn’t been so livid, I might have had the presence of mind to change my status before un-friending her to make it crystal clear why I could no longer call her my friend, even on Facebook.

I haven’t monitored my number of friends to see if it’s changed but was happily surprised that a few friends that I know to be conservative and/or Christians “liked” my status. I like to think that if Jesus were around today, he’d be marching with our gay brothers, sisters, those in between, and their allies, sporting a “Marriage is so gay” t-shirt.


For another perspective on homosexuality and the black church see: A Gospel Singer Slims Down and Comes Out


Roundtable: Engaging Students as Adults

Photography by Parris Whittingham ©2010 at Kyraocity Works


Nichole: Lucinda would love your thoughts on this one (of course, everyone else can chime in). This post is by a black female professor who tackles the question of the role of liberal arts in higher education by focusing on how/where/when does learning taking place. She cedes some of the control of the classroom to her students and makes them responsible for reflecting on what they have learned over the course of a semester. Gaunt reached this strategy after doing her own reflecting and responding to the bane of most professor's existence, student evaluations. In light of the various assaults on higher education (from budget slashes, to the customer/service provider paradigm, to the developing conventional wisdom that not everyone is meant to go to college), how does Gaunt provide new ways of thinking about the value of learning and its role in preparing young adults for participating in our democracy?

LucindaI love Professor Gaunt’s idea that we should relate to college students as adults—as “willing to participate wherever they are mentally, physically, spiritually, psychically in a classroom and in their society.” I would go one step further and say we should be relating to students of any age as active participants in their learning. I can’t take credit for this idea. I’m sure it’s been written about by many educational experts, but there is a great quote attributed to Professor T. Ripaldi—though I can’t verify that—which says it well:

“When we adults think of children, there is a simple truth which we ignore—childhood is not preparation for life: childhood is life. A child is constantly confronted with the nagging question, What are you going to be? Courageous would be the youngster who, looking the adult squarely in the face, would say, I'm not going to be anything, I already am. We adults would be shocked by such an insolent remark, for we have forgotten, if indeed we ever knew, that a child is already a participating and contributing member of society from the time he or she is born. Childhood isn't a time when he or she is molded into a human being who lives life, he or she is a human being who is living life.”

Students—whatever their age—can be partners in their learning. They don’t learn how to engage ideas when we relate to them as empty vessels. They bring something to the table, and Professor Gaunt expresses this well when she says, “[T]here are 600 years of knowledge in a room of 30 students each with forms of knowledge that cannot be replicated in a book.” 

I had some great teachers as a student, but I know my life would have been transformed by having teachers engage me in finding out what I thought about what I was taught. This kind of dialogue would have ensured that I not only got facts and information, which I certainly needed, but it also would have fostered stronger, well-honed critical thinking skills in me. This is what I sorely needed. 

I am on the other side now, teaching sexual health and writing to teenagers who write sexual health stories to educate their peers. With each new group of students I work with, I am always struck by how they relate to me. They want to please me. This is exactly what Professor Gaunt is talking about when she refers to “students act like what is most important is addressing the teacher or showing off what they learned for me as the instructor.” Students have learned to please the teacher by regurgitating what they’ve been told, but I would rather have them engage ideas and use them in their lives. 

I am inspired by how seriously Professor Gaunt takes the liberal arts mission of “producing great citizens, future professionals, and great human beings.” She is asking the hard questions of her students and herself, and I hope her colleagues are listening. Higher education would be transformed if we had more professors like Kyra D. Gaunt.