Generally speaking, as I move about in my every day regular life, I don't think or worry much about people who don't like me or don't wish me well.  Generally, as I move about in my every day regular life, I don't consider that I might have haters.  I've never subscribed to the "haters are my motivators" line of thinking; I've never, personally, seen the logic in it.

But over the last couple of months, I'm starting to feel... hated on.

It started back when I found out I'd be teaching another class at my alma mater.  The first class I co-taught with 2 other professors in the fall and this class I'm teaching solo.  It's a big deal, but then to me it's not.  I appreciate the opportunity, it's certainly a resume builder and I'm always happy to mentor and provide support for folks looking to enter my field of work.  But when all is said and done, I don't do this to look good to anybody.  I do it because I'm genuinely interested in being a help to the students and the faculty who invested so much in me and the start of my career.

Last semester, one of my colleagues, and a person I consider a friend, who also teaches this same course, called me up and asked if I'd be willing to speak to his class on short notice about a certain topic.  He pitched it as an opportunity for me to meet some of the students I'd have the following semester -- I didn't need the opportunity as I had all of them in the class I was teaching at the time -- but it did provide an opportunity for me to talk to them more about myself as a professional, since the class I had them in was a bit more about the theory.

He met me at the door to the building (I was running a bit late) and walked me back to the class.  On the way he re-emphasized the opportunity to meet the students and he added a note - "some of them asked me how it is you're able to teach this class when you've only been out of school for a year."

He went on to discuss how he assured them that I had a lot to offer and they could learn from me, but none of that did much to assuage the feeling I had that everything wasn't on the up and up.  It felt like maybe HE was the one who'd wondered how I got this opportunity when he'd been in the field for 7 years before he was approached.  I was confused.  Did he see me as competition?  He wasn't going to teach any fewer classes or make any less money because I was helping out, so why the comment?  And even if he didn't wonder that, why did he offer it up to me?  How was it a helpful comment?  I tried to shake the feeling that he was throwing shade, but I couldn't.

Earlier this month I was at a staff meeting, and sat next to a teacher I feel I have a pretty good working relationship with.  We've hung out, in a group, outside of school and, generally, get along while at work.  She and I are both native Tennesseans, but we hail from different cities.  She asked me what high school I went to and when I told her the name of my private high school she replied, "oh!  No wonder!"  Intrigued, I asked her to explain what she meant.  She said, "I mean, it explains a lot about you.  You're not really black."

I'm not new to this whole line of thinking, so I knew exactly what she meant when she said it, but for some reason I was particularly offended.  Maybe because she tries to present herself as someone with a background other than the one she has.  Which is fine -- "started from the bottom" and all that.  Maybe that made me think she wouldn't be the type to think of someone as "less black" because of (enter stupid stereotype here).  When I told her "what do you mean, 'not really black.'?" she responded, "I mean of course you're black, but you're not ghetto, hood, from the projects black."

The more I thought about that exchange, the more I couldn't let it go.  Aside from the stereotyping, which is par for the course, there was something about her "no wonder!" that didn't sit right with me.  No wonder what?  It was as if she'd always thought something was wrong with me and knowing I attended a private school explained it -- but what could "it" be?  I think more than feeling stereotyped, I was wondering how long she'd been pondering how I got to be the way I am and further, for what reason?

And then last Saturday I had drinks with a couple of friends where it came up that I'll be going back to school this fall to get a degree with an emphasis in administration and instructional leadership so that I can be an administrator.  One of my friends laughed at me and seemed shocked that I wanted to be an administrator.  Last night, she, myself, and several different friends had dinner where she brought this tidbit up in conversation (though it wasn't relevant).  She said it in a "wait till y'all hear this shit..." kind of way and it set me on edge immediately.

Everyone was very supportive of me, one of them even said she'd love to work for me.  It seemed that their support wasn't what she was going for and so the friend who brought it up added, "well, you really should spend some time teaching.  I mean, summer school or something.  As a counselor, but even when I was a teacher, I listened to and respected admins more if they had a teaching background."

I'd been so caught off guard by the whole thing, I just said something about taking it all one thing at a time -- but I couldn't shake the feeling that she does not wish me well on this journey.  And why not?

If we're honest, we've all been jealous of another person's accomplishments.  Whatever they may be.  Marriage, kids, family, jobs, cars, houses, degrees, acclaim -- somewhere in there falls something each of us want out of life and when someone else has it before we do, sometimes we feel jealous, EVEN when that person is a friend of ours or someone we care a lot about.  Sometimes, those are the very people.

So I get how it can be hard to feel happy for someone and I don't judge anyone for feeling that way, but do you have to tear someone down?  Do you have to be negative?

My mom always tells me to be careful who I let in my circle, and I feel I have been.  It seems to always be the people I don't expect.  The folks I find so far away from me in terms of what they have or what they want that I just can't fathom myself as any sort of competition for any of them.  And if I'm not competition, then what is there to be jealous or petty over?  Or so goes my line of thinking.

Turns out, I need a new line of thinking.


I Can't Make It Be What It Ain't

One of my friends has THE most country sayings and I love all of them.  "I can't make it be what it ain't" is one.  It's another way to say "it is what it is" which is to say, in a sense, no use in being upset about a thing being a thing.

But what about when a thing isn't a thing?  Or it is a thing, just not the thing you want?

There are a lot of posts floating on the interwebs today concerning comments Chuck Smith made on last night's Real Housewives of Atlanta episode.  After inviting Nene Leakes and Phaedra Parks back to their hometown of Athens, GA to speak with some of the kids at the Boys' and Girls' Club of Athens, Chuck decided to confront Phaedra about comments she made on a trip that his wife was apart of.

Chuck's dating history came up during the trip and it was revealed to his wife that not only had Kandi dated Chuck, but so had Phaedra.  Phaedra dismissed it, mostly, citing it as something that happened when they were kids (read: not a big deal) and then again in college (again, seemingly, not that big of a deal).  Chuck, however, wanted to clear the air and clarify with Phaedra that they never dated.  When provided with examples of how Phaedra came to the conclusion that they dated, Chuck asserted that she, like Kandi, was just "part of the team."  In other words, he was lying to and manipulating several women into thinking he was dating them exclusively, when really he was doing everything but being exclusive.

I think Chuck's an asshole for several reasons.  Primarily, this whole conversation was unnecessary unless he was trying to stunt for the cameras and for his wife.  Of course, I don't understand why he and his wife just couldn't have that conversation privately where he explained that and added that regardless of previous relationships, she's the one he married and so forth and so on.

But what about what it means when you say one thing and do another?  Chuck tried to make Phaedra seem desperate for claiming him as an ex, all the while wholly admitting that he set things up so that she would think that.  I'm always baffled when people do that. They go out of their way to make a thing a thing, and then get upset when you call it a thing.

Let's take this outside of a romantic relationship.  I was just pondering the other day a personal situation where I feel compelled to keep a secret for some friends.  The secret itself isn't exactly a bad secret -- meaning it's not something that would or presently is hurting anyone.  In fact, it's really not anyone's business but that of those involved -- however, because of my proximity to the situation and people's tendency to want all the juicy gossip and all the tea on all the people all of the time, I'm frequently approached for information.  I don't mind keeping the secret, but I'm frustrated that it seems while my friends don't want anyone to know, they're not exactly doing their part in terms of discretion.

I've broached this topic, vaguely, with them before and I was basically told - "no one asked you to keep it a secret..."

Sure.  Fine.  Neither of them said, "Ashley, here's this information and now that you know it, please don't tell anyone."  But they didn't have to because their actions said it for them.  But I'm stuck holding the bag because they made a thing a thing and now don't want me to call it a thing.

Ultimately this is about having your cake and eating it too.  Wanting to have something, but not wanting to pay for it.  Wanting to have a girlfriend, but not wanting to spend the time necessary -- so you remind her frequently that "you're not my girlfriend" even though you take her everywhere with you, you've introduced her to friends and family and you spend a lot of your free time with her.  In fact, it would seem that she is your girlfriend -- except when you don't want to be held responsible for how your actions affect her.

Alls I'm saying is, folks gotsta be mo' careful.  We know when we're manipulating a situation in our favor.  So don't get mad when you get called out on that.  Own it.  Step into it.  Or just quit trying to get people to do things without their explicit permission.

You can't make it be what it ain't, even if you never said what it is.


Mississippi Damned

I'm not sure how I stumbled on this film, but I know it was over a year ago that I did so.  Maybe even 2.  I finally bought the DVD and watched it.  This movie is a film everyone should see.  The writer/director Tina Mabry does an excellent job, as do the actors.

This movie follows the story of a family in rural Mississippi beginning in 1986 and then continuing in 1998.  At the center of the film is the Peterson family.  Junior, Delores, Leigh and Kari are all members of a larger extended family who all live within a few miles of each other.  Junior has a gambling problem while his wife Delores is a hard woman from years of dealing with her husband's lying about where their money is going.  Their oldest daughter Leigh is gay and struggles with what that means to her family, but also to her own identity and the youngest child Kari has a talent for music that might be her ticket out of hell.

We also closely follow the stories of Delores's two sisters, Anna and Charlie.  Anna has an emotionally abusive husband, Tyrone.  Anna struggles with potential sterility in the early part of the film.  In combination with her husband being unable to find work, their marriage suffers exponentially.  Meanwhile, Charlie is an alcoholic who lives with a cheating boyfriend.  Her only son Sammy is an excellent ball player, but his mother's alcoholism and tendency to focus more on her boyfriends than her son, puts him in some unfortunate situations.  Eventually Charlie finds herself in her own life or death situation.

I've always been interested in family dynamics and this movie gives me all the functional dysfunction I can handle.  I see my own family in this family and I see some of the societal ills that I wonder how we'll ever get around, play out in this film.

For example, there's a theme of power through sex that runs through this film and in some very uncomfortable ways.  We see one character who feels powerless attempt to exert power on another character, using sex.  Their relationship, unsurprisingly, never recovers -- and the ways they relate to one another after the fact provides insight into just how much sex is often not at all about sex.

There's also the theme of sacrifice.  What do we give up for our family -- even though we may not like them very much.  One character sacrifices her way out of the misfortune and dysfunction, only to have another character sacrifice absolutely everything to give it back to her.

One thing is certain: this movie is HEAVY.  I took several breaks during the almost 2 hour film.  There were moments where I thought "Jesus Christ -- is there any light at the end of this tunnel?"  And there is -- but it is most certainly at the very very end.  Even with all that, though, I would watch this movie again and again -- it's that good.

The only place I've found this film is at the film's website -- but it is 2014 and this is the internet.  If you can find it somewhere, anywhere, please watch it.  Even if you don't purchase the film, I bet after seeing it, you'll want to.

One more clip.  In this scene, the women's mother (who lives with Anna) is confronted by Charlie over things that happened when she was a child.  It is very well acted and so true to the experience many survivors of abuse experience when they try to bring up what happened to them.  But you don't really experience Charlie's pain as much as you experience the mother's.  She's denying any responsibility, but you can sense that her words and her true feelings don't really match up.  It doesn't hurt that their mother is portrayed by one of my favorite "little-known actresses" Dr. Tonea Stewart.



Man. I haven't posted here in awhile. Tons of reasons -- mostly tumblr. But I've always thought of this blog as my place of depth. Tumblr is good for those quick hits -- thoughts that are too long for twitter but not thought out enough for here.

Guess I haven't been doing a lot of deep thinking.

I have done quite a bit of learning over the last several days. Right after things initially began to happen, my first instinct was to blog about it. I have always come here to help myself process the crazy things going on in my life. I have frequently found myself searching for keywords on my own blog looking for inspiration or some advice from my own mouth (they say it's always harder to take your own advice).

But every time I sat down to write this post, I stopped. I think I was a bit embarrassed. On the one hand, I've shared some pretty personal stuff here, but on the other hand I've always been able to do so cautiously. There's no way to do that this time. There's also the issue that at this point, I don't know who reads this blog -- if anyone does anymore. I know there are people I know personally who come here. Some because I gave them the link and others because they've cyberstalked me long enough to find it.

I decided to share this because, ultimately, it's a life lesson that I hope I remember and if my mistake can help someone else -- good.

What I learned had several parts to it. The biggest was: it's ok to have strong convictions about something. Often our convictions are security blankets. They protect us from things we're not prepared to handle. Sometimes they just protect us from crazy. Just like I believe we should respect others' beliefs and convictions, we should respect our own.

I have written, previously, about a guy -- W. It's hard to describe our relationship. Over the past several years, it has been very complicated. It has involved marriage proposals, intimate conversations, lies, brave honesty and so much more. But I think I always thought that despite our missed connections and the fact that he seemed to always be unable to vulnerable enough to admit his feelings for me, we were friends. Not necessarily close, but still friends. I felt like I could call him if I ever needed anything.

W and I haven't spoken in a while. He briefly text me a few months ago -- the conversation really went nowhere and felt very pointless, but it was classic behavior for him that I read as attention-seeking so I didn't think much about it.

While home visiting my mom and family for the holidays, a friend hit me up and asked if I'd join her and her brother for drinks. Initially I declined saying I was already out and too far away, but she mentioned that W would be there and so I figured I'd make it happen because I had a feeling I wouldn't see him otherwise.

From the moment he arrived he was flirting very heavily with me, which isn't unlike him. I was mildly annoyed because he began to act a bit too possessive for my tastes, but he's always doing something out of the ordinary, so I ignored it.

After drinks, W invited me back to his place. I agreed -- it was late, and I was well aware of what I was doing and what it implied. I didn't have any specific intentions, but I figured I'd see where the night led.

I don't talk about sex very much on this blog -- and I have prefaced almost all my commentary on the subject with that same point. But what is true about me and sex is that I find it to be a very personal act. I have people in my life who would talk about it, and all of the "it" they've had until the cows come home and with no problem. While I talk freely about sex in general, talking about it as it specifically pertains to me has always been something I was less comfortable with. I've always held it in high esteem and always felt that no matter the circumstance, it should be a respected act -- I think the way people devalue it contributes negatively to a society and culture that already has a hard time dealing with sex and it's consequences (good and bad).

As a personal rule of thumb, I typically don't have sex outside of a committed relationship. That is not a hard and fast rule, but it's something I do try to work with and I think it's helped me out a lot. Including in this relationship with W. Sex has come up and it has mostly come up without coming up, but I've always felt convicted that I needed to be careful around him with that. On this night, however, for whatever reason, I didn't think about it. I just did it -- and immediately after, I knew it was the wrong thing and I felt sick about it.

I really don't know what I was thinking -- maybe I felt too comfortable with him. Maybe I felt like while we aren't in a committed relationship, he and I have been doing SOMETHING for a while and that should mean something with regards to sex. Or maybe I just wanted to so I did. I really don't know... I really don't.

As I prepared to go, I started telling him I thought he was a jerk. There was something about the way he seemed very uninterested in me as a person right after, that didn't sit right with me. I am a counselor and I do tune into the things people do unconsciously. He claimed he didn't know why so many people thought he was a jerk and he insinuated that I'd hurt his feelings, but I could read him from a mile away. I dealt with an emotionally abusive person before and I know when someone is trying to flip something around on you to make it your fault.

Eventually, to prove my point, I asserted that I knew he'd probably had meaningless sex with someone recently and he said he had. I asked him who -- thinking it would be the neighbor he'd mentioned -- but was shocked to hear him say "L" the name of the friend who'd invited me out that night.

She and I aren't close friends. We went to high school together and we've maintained connections over the years. We're cool and we certainly respect each other. She knew that W and I had a strange relationship and I knew that W had previously tried to get with her, but she'd told me then she had no interested in him and I'd been told nothing to make me think anything had changed.

Appalled, embarrassed and angry, I got up and left. I was sick about it all night and into the next day. I just didn't know what to do.

Out of nowhere, L text me to say she really needed to talk to me because she had information she needed to share. Turns out she and W had been "talking" or working on being a serious committed relationship for about a month. I felt like I'd been sucker punched. He flirted all night with me, with her sitting right there. I called another friend who'd been there and she confirmed that not only was he all over me, but that there was no indication that anything between L and W was going on.

Her story made a lot of things make sense. Like why he asked me not to tell anyone and why he blew my phone up the next day (I didn't want to talk to him because I was so upset about it). It even made me think twice about comments he made, seemingly out of the blue, about L and I.

Initially I struggled over whether or not to tell her what happened. I didn't want to get any more involved in the mess, and I was still embarrassed. I felt like I looked like an idiot. But I realized that if nothing else, she needed to know what she was dealing with and that he couldn't be trusted.

L and I are cool. She subsequently had it out with W and he of course blamed me. Claimed he'd passed out and I popped up in his bed all over him before he could say anything. Even claimed that I started talking about how bad I felt about it -- which, while I did, I never conveyed to him because I couldn't articulate why.

But now I'm left wondering why. Of all the people and all the situations, why me and why did I allow myself to do that, knowing that's not my speed, and it's not my thing.

I'm also upset that I've truly lost a friend -- or maybe I'm realizing I never had a real friend. He was motivated by selfishness through and through. And while I realized that from the jump, I never thought his selfishness would be used to purposefully hurt another person, just because he could. For me, this has felt like loss on several fronts.

But I did learn a huge lesson on convictions and now I have hard evidence that what I'm convicted about is important in terms of keeping me emotionally safe. Everyone isn't convicted about the same things. There are things in life that don't bother me; that I just don't care about that really matter to people I know. Different strokes for different folks -- and that's fine. Just as long as you know what works for you and stick with that, I think you'll always come out on top.


It Feels Good To Let It Go

One of my 8th grade girls is exceptional. She stands out from her peers because she's so smart and capable. But not just that, she acts on her potential. But she's quiet. And when I first met her, I thought she was quiet because she's shy -- and she is a little. But as I've gotten to know her, I've realized her quiet is more about taking in her surroundings. She's learned to be wary of most things so she's constantly reading and re-reading situations. Assessing how much of herself she can be in any given situation.

This year she's one of my student council members. In fact, she has a special designation even within the student council group. As such, she gets to spend the end of the day in my office helping us with stuff. An office assistant, basically. We didn't have anything for them to do today, so I spent some time talking to them. We got on the topic of what makes a good counselor and she shared that she's never felt comfortable talking to a counselor. Her reasons for why were many. Basically a combo of not trusting and adults not understanding.

As I kept asking questions to probe her thoughts on this, she started sharing bits of herself with me. But she was doing it as she was also telling me she didn't like to talk about herself with adults or people she (essentially) hasn't vetted. In the same conversation where she told me she doesn't trust anyone and doesn't have trusted adults in her life, she told me all about the friends she has who she doesn't trust. She told me about familial issues. She told me about feeling mistreated because her Nigerian aunts don't like her American mother. She even told me she doesn't say "I love you" or "I'm sorry" because she thinks they don't mean anything anymore.

I toyed with the idea of pointing all of this out to her, but I was enjoying watching her open up so I didn't. It was evident to me that while she was telling me she holds everything in, she was EAGER to get it all out. Apparently it was easier for her to feel like she was holding on to bits and pieces while she shared bits and pieces. Once she got started, though, she really couldn't stop. Another, much more vocal and verbal, student kept trying to share his experiences, but the rush of being able to share hers, wouldn't let her stop long enough for him, even with his overbearing ways, to get a word in edgewise.

I recognized what was happening to her because it's happened to me. That moment where you feel like you can finally let some stuff go in a safe space. It'll come tumbling out and you can't stop it. It just feels good to let it go. And you know, I was reminded today (not that I need a reminder) why I do what I do. For moments like those. Where a student is holding on so tightly to her identity as a put together on the outside, but falling a part on the inside individual all the while letting you see pieces of the broken parts.

She didn't show me everything. She may never show me everything. But the fact that she felt like she could do with me what she never does with anyone else... I did something right.


CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story - My Review

24 hours ago the first airing of TLC's biopic finished airing on VH1 and -- I watched most of it again as the super TLC fan (aka stan) that I am. I let it all marinate over night and I have some thoughts to share...

I think it'll be easiest to talk about the movie in terms of its' casting, pacing and how well it got the facts right.

Casting -

I didn't hear ANYBODY say that they thought the casting was good, when the three women chosen to portray Tionne, Lisa and Chilli were first announced. In fact, what I saw a lot of was "who the hell is Drew Sidora?" and "can Lil' Mama even act?" and "Keke Palmer looks nothing like Chilli!"

Interestingly, though, after the movie premiered in NYC and bloggers and other journalists got their hands on advance copies of the movie, I heard a different tune. Some freely admitted they were unsure of the casting but that after seeing the movie they changed their minds. Others pretended to have had no preconceived notions and only praised the film and its actors.

I'll certainly freely admit that when I saw the cast, I had my doubts. I expected that if Lil' Mama could act, even a little bit, she'd make a great Lisa. I had all the eye rolls and heavy sighs for Keke Palmer who said in one interview that she'd always been told she looked like Chilli and I wished to see how much makeup they planned to slap on Drew to lighten her skin enough.

Now that I've seen the film, I'm singing a bit of a different tune. Lil' Mama was good. She can act and she did Left-Eye justice given what she had to work with. Of the three, I think she did the best job in her portrayal. Keke actually does look like Chilli from some angles. She had the body and the "sexy" part down pretty pat. Her dancing was adequate. There wasn't too much to complain about. Drew -- well, I think Drew had the hardest row to hoe. Not to suggest that the other two could've been portrayed by just anybody, but Tionne -- she requires a certain savoir flair... Drew had moments where she seemed to truly channel the boss (T-Boz means "Tionne is the boss") but she had just as many where I didn't know who she was supposed to be, exactly.

I'll speak to pacing in just a moment, but it (and the editing, I'm sure) certainly effected the actors' abilities to do their characters justice. The ladies have always had great charisma and been very charming and funny, especially when with each other and especially in the group's early years. I didn't see that from these actresses -- I didn't feel like these were my BFFs in my head (as I do whenever I watch a TLC interview, even now). I felt like they all got along, but I didn't feel like they had spark between them or took on that ride-or-die mentality that TLC talks about.

There were certainly high points, though. Keke Palmer did Chilli's abortion storyline justice. I think she conveyed those feelings of loss and anger very well. Drew Sidora didn't get a lot of screen time to develop Tionne's story past her sickle cell, but her hospital scenes were gut-wrenching. Especially the first. Lil' Mama had a lot of scene stealing moments. Her charisma and her ball of light was very evident in almost every scene, including the ones where we saw them audition for Pebbles the first time. This says a lot of Lil' Mama's talent. The other two ladies had the advantage of spending time with the women they were portraying. Lil' Mama had to figure hers out on her own.

However, aside from the ladies -- the rest of the casting felt off. Pebbles is the exception to that. Rochelle Aytes was a great Pebbles, I thought. But Carl Anthony Payne as LA Reid was awkward and some of the other castings were just... did you see the guy who played Puff Daddy? Probably outweighs Sean Combs by 100 lbs, easy. The guy who plays Mack 10? He probably underweighs the real Mack 10 (at the time he was portraying him) by 100 lbs. And let's don't even discuss Evan Ross as Dallas Austin, except to say Evan Ross probably comes up to Dallas Austin's chest. Seems like they got the ladies casted and said "whoever can work can have the rest of the parts."

Pacing -

This is probably my biggest sore point with the movie. It should've been a 4 hours, 2-part miniseries like all the great biopics. The Jackson 5: An American Dream and The Temptations were both 2 parters. Cramming 20 years into 2.5 hrs require that a whole lot of things get left out or smashed together.

It all started off pretty well. I felt like we were getting to know the ladies. Lisa's dad gets killed off in the first 10 - 15 minutes and we meet and then lose Crystal Jones in almost the very same scene. But once they hit the Fanmail era, the movie seems to hit warp speed. Tionne meets Mack 10, Chilli gets pregnant, has a baby and Tionne also gets pregnant, while they find a new manager and Lisa begins to take trips to Honduras, all seemingly in the same 15 minutes. You can barely keep track of what's happening with one storyline before the next one hits a bump and gets all crazy.

I was especially upset with the fly-through of Lisa's funeral. I know that's a fine line to walk. We don't want to make it a dog and pony show and we know what funerals are like, but who spoke? What was said? Who showed up? We got no glimpse and what we did see we already knew. Tionne and Chilli cried through the whole thing.

The pacing also hurt character development. We see Chilli's mom all of twice, but she's clearly been a huge part of Chilli's life. Same for T-Boz's mom. The pacing also causes the film to fail to help us understand certain plot points. For example, Lisa drinks through the whole movie. Almost from the first time we see her, she's drinking. A cursory TLC fan is probably aware that, at minimum, Lisa had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol -- but for as many times as we see her drink and we see Tionne frustrated by it, we never address it head on. What did the other two really think of it? How did the diversion center help or not help? If I weren't a TLC fan, would I really have caught that Lisa had a drinking issue from the movie? I'm not sure -- which is my point overall.

There as also Lisa wishing the other two listened to her ideas more. She mentions wanting to do futuristic things in the early part of the film, and then again when she argues against Creep as a single. Later we hear Chilli remark "we're finally doing her futuristic stuff and where the hell is she?" The pacing made it hard to keep up and understand if you didn't already know what was going to happen or what the issues were.

However, the pacing did get it right early in the film, as I mentioned. Especially around the development of Perri "Pebbles" Reid. I think some people criticize the film for spending too much time on Pebbles and how she did the girls dirty, but I argue they probably didn't spend enough time. We see the tricks she employed to keep them in the dark about their contracts as well as the tricks she used to, in a sense, cheat them out of their money. All of that is important to the story and good pacing helped bring it out.

Facts -

If you follow me on twitter -- for the hour I did get to tweet, I dropped as many TLC fact gems as I could. I knew the movie would take some artistic license, and the script writer was quick to make sure everyone knew the difference between a biopic and a documentary. Overall, the facts were pretty on (all things considered). They dramatized some things of course and skated over others as necessary.

There were little things like -- Larry. I'm convinced -- and unless Tionne or Chilli themselves tell me otherwise, this will be my opinion -- Larry was meant to represent Sean Newman. I remember when Lisa first started dating Sean. I found any picture of them together. My favorite entertainer and a fine ass man? No issue from me. But I don't recall ever hearing Sean Newman was married. Larry is though. That's the artistic license at work, and that's fine. (there is, of course, the chance that I'm just wrong, either about it being Sean or about Sean not being married, but this is my post so I"m right).

Where the facts really got iffy for me was less in actual truthiness and more in the omission of certain things. Going back to the pacing, they rushed Lisa's storyline of feeling like her group didn't listen to her. As I mentioned earlier, there were 3 references to Lisa wanting to do more futuristic type things. One occurs on the set of the Creep video. It is true that Lisa wanted to film her portions of the video with tape covering her mouth and it is true that she didn't like Creep as not only the lead single, but a single at all. What isn't shown (and to me is an issue of fact) is that Lisa disagreed with the message of Creep altogether. She recorded a rap to be added to the remixes of Creep that preaches the exact OPPOSITE message of the original song. She may have wanted to do something more futuristic, but she wanted it done to something other than Creep.

And what about poor Crystal Jones? We didn't even get to see them kick her out of her own group. At least not the way it actually happened...

But they did get some facts really right. Like with Pebbles. I know some think they made her look like a terrible person for no reason, but one thing I've never seen or heard is Pebbles deny that she had them sign contracts that put them at a serious disadvantage. She's sued and she's whined and she's made excuses but I've never heard her out and out deny it. Them facts is facts, period.

I could go on and on and on -- and I have already. Overall, I give the movie a 7.5/10. Not too shabby, but could've been better. If VH1 releases it on DVD, I want the director's cut, with all extended and deleted scenes, plus behind the scenes, interviews and makings of the MTB single as special features. That's a MUST for my collection.


Being Different

Today on Twitter, @MsMayfield asked an interesting question: "How long are you to be identified with poor choices?

I immediately thought of a recent conversation I had with my mom about one of my cousins. My mom is the youngest of 14 so the majority of my cousins are significantly older than me and it's only now that I'm truly beginning to get to know them. They have stories and lives that I don't recall or never knew about anyway.

This summer, I helped a couple of my cousins plan a "cousin's reunion." It, as things in my family usually do, came along with a lot of drama. In a family as large as mine, you can expct that at any given time there are at least 3 different feuds going on that have ripple effects. One of my cousins, the oldest in the group of us who were planning, was hoping she could convince everyone to ignore their issues for a weekend and spend time with family. Noble idea, but not gonna happen.

In any case, all this planning and back and forth and talk of feuds meant I spent a lot of time on the phone with her and in contact with her. All seemed ok until I got down to our reunion location (our parent's hometown) and my mom (who refused to attend the reunion, though our parents were invited) found out I was staying with this cousin.

Now, mama wasn't upset but she did want to make sure I knew what I was getting into. We had several conversations where she alluded to the idea that not only would I be indebted to my cousin for letting her stay with me but I should also beware of her around my stuff.

I tried to ignore the sly comments my mom would make -- she's notorious for that and it irks me; say something if you got something to say -- but eventually I just had to ask what was up. What had she done so badly that it warranted all of THIS.

She stole something. Now, mama couldn't remember when, but when I posited the idea that it was 20+ years ago, mama didn't argue she just countered with the idea that she'd also done it the last decade.

As I relayed all of this to a friend, I said, "you know, I bet when I'm 46 (my cousin's age) I'll look back on things I did as a teen or in my early 20s that I'll regret with everything in me."

Stealing is a huge no-no in my family. Not to say that's a big deal or noteworthy but there's a lot my family will tolerate in the way of poor decision making. Stealing, especially from family (as my cousin is accused of doing) is absolutely not tolerated and I'm beginning to see not ever truly forgiven.

I did a post a really long time ago about being allowed to be different. About giving people space to grow and learn and change. I don't feel like we do that enough. You make one bad move and you're marred for life with it. People do dumb stuff all the time -- what do you have to do or say before people let you move on? How much has to be done to proven you've learned the err of your ways?

I certainly don't want to make excuses for a grown woman stealing -- and my cousin is accused of stealing as a grown woman -- but I do want to make room for her to grow. Maybe even in her 30s she didn't know any better (and "knowing better" isn't just about knowing that what you're doing is wrong -- I know, sounds crazy, but I posit this: a person may know what they're doing is incorrect but if they don't know the correct way isn't that just like not knowing any better?).

So I'm taking my mother's words under advisement. If she does come to visit me and she stays with me, I won't leave anything out to tempt her to take. But I also won't refuse her access to my home based on accusations that are a decade (maybe even two decades!) old. I need to experience her for myself. Not in a dumb way, but in a way that keeps me safe and lets her be a better person if that's where she is in life.