12 March 2014


Ban Bossy is a public service campaign sponsored by Girl Scouts of America and Lean In, an organization which is the namesake of the bestseller written by Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s current Chief Operating Officer. If you haven’t read Lean In, just do it. 

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead is Sheryl Sandberg’s response to the Facebook mantra “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” It is her reply to the concept “write the book you need to read.” It is a thorough, well-researched work that explores the social constructs that have led to a large deficiency of female leaders in our governments and corporations. 

Lean in is more than a book now. It is a movement. It is about recognizing that women face discrimination and gender biases in the workplace, but refusing to use these obstacles as excuses for our failure to pursue leadership roles and successful careers.  It’s about assuming success, getting it done, then using positions of power to influence the way we as a society think about, interact with, and raise our women. 

Ban Bossy is the crucial next phase of the Lean In movement.  It is a call to change the way educators, parents, and peers communicate with young girls. Women learn shame and embarrassment as young girls. We learn that a demonstration of confidence is quickly mistaken for arrogance. We learn that giving directions and asserting ourselves makes us bossy and therefore not likeable. Simply put, Girls are discouraged from leading.

Girls are twice as likely as boys to worry that leadership roles will make them seem “bossy.” - BanBossy.com

As a result, girls often lean towards passivity, self-deprecation, and even passive-aggression in an effort to be well-liked. We trade leadership for likability. As adults, we fail to sit at the table, and it is assumed we don’t want to be invited.  Our talents, skills, and ideas never make it to said table. Everyone loses.

 We hold ourselves back in ways both big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in. We internalize the negative messages we get throughout our lives—the messages that say it’s wrong to be outspoken, aggressive, more powerful than men. - Lean In

So, what’s the solution? The answer is to create environments where girls are encouraged and pushed to express their opinions and assert themselves without being branded as aggressive or overly ambitious (is there such a thing?). Women must pledge to model authentic, assertive, and self-aware behavior for our children, and men must show them that these attributes are not only acceptable, but desirable.  We must abandon the sticks and stones philosophy and own the power of our words. We must ban bossy, so that someday there won’t be female leaders. There will just be leaders.

I encourage you to take the pledge at BanBossy.com, commit on social media with #banbossy, and share your leadership story in the comments!

13 January 2014

I am (still) my hair.

The (half) black girl hair dialogue. I have to be honest.  I've been avoiding it.  As a college educated, socially aware, usually vocal woman, I have made a sociological textbook mistake.

I convinced myself that if I did not politicize my transition to "natural" hair, it could not be political. This, coming from a woman who wrote an entire thesis entitled "Crowning Glory: The Politics of Black Women and Hair" for a feminist theory class. How did I get here?

It is all a matter of perspective. When I was in college, I had long, flowing, permed hair.  I could curl it with an iron, whip it back and forth in the club, and withstand hours in the Central Texas humidity without so much as a flyaway. I was a part of the status quo in this sense, more or less. I recognized the very complex relationship that black women have with their hair, but I had never truly felt marginalized because of my mane.

Me with long, relaxed hair

But, about 2 years ago, I decided I wanted to try something different.  That's it. I was tired of straight and I wanted the versatility of experimenting with my natural texture. I wanted to channel Corrine Bailey Rae. I wasn't trying to stick it to societal expectations. I wasn't trying to get back to my African roots. I was not out to prove that I Am Not My Hair. I was not even terribly concerned about the salon chemicals leeching into my bloodstream (although, whoa, kinda scary).

Not that any of these reasons for going natural are invalid. They just were not my reasons, and I was frustrated when my curly, kinky roots started showing and people asked me what my motivations were. Nobody asked me what compelled me when I decided to dye my hair black in high school, or when I had that botched Carrot Top dye job freshman year. Or even when I decided to chop it all of a la Rihanna.

Because cuts and colors are neutral ground and my hair as it grows out of my head is a freaking agenda.

Still, I avoided the hair politics discussion right down to my "big chop" a few months ago. Now, there are people in my life that have never known me with any other hair but what I have now. And it's kind of a relief. Because, geez...the explanations are exhausting.

I have tried to separate myself from the wave of women calling natural hair a lifestyle change because it felt like that framing was giving hair more power than it deserves. What I know now is that hair is still a part of our social identities and Black hair is still a journey, no matter which way you wear it.

Personally, my hair now means learning to handle something ever-changing and essentially foreign to me.  It is dealing with frustratingly clueless hairdressers and watching hours of YouTube tutorials. It is feeling a little awkward when the TSA agent pats down your afro puff looking for God-knows-what. It is nearing tears when a rude beauty store clerk tells you that "When the ad said the sale was on ALL hair products, they didn't mean those ones."

It's also about trying new 'dos, feeling more confident than ever, and being free to walk in the rain without a plastic bag on my head. Small victories.

Various stages of curly

I have many more thoughts to share on this topic, but the bottom line is this:  Whether I agree to it or not, I am still my hair.

Avoiding the topic doesn't make it go away.  The only way to upend these social constructs is to give my experiences a voice. Let's keep talking about it until it's no longer up for discussion. Because, seriously, don't we have more important matters to address?

07 January 2014

Year of the Bridesmaid

For me, 2014 is going to be the year of the bridesmaid. The year of the right-hand woman. The year of the Pinterest-obsessed, checklist-wielding, overprotective best friend. 2014 is the year of everyone else's wedding.

As I move into my mid-twenties, my calendar is filling up with dress fittings, bachelorette parties, and baby showers.  My Facebook News Feed is replete with photos of babies, engagement rings, and keys to new homes.

None of them are mine. And I'm not sad about it.  And I'm not sarcastically self-satisfied about it. Actually, I'm pretty thrilled. And nobody seems to believe or accept this.

I am continually being asked these questions:

"Are you starting to feel the pressure? Isn't it difficult seeing everyone else fly past you?"
No. (Nope, not even a little.)

"When is he going to put a ring on your finger?"
Someday. Maybe soon. Maybe not. We'll see. No hurry.

"What are you waiting for?"
Nothing in particular. And yet, something. Until, eventually, it will be neither.

My answers are always met with unbelieving winks and elbow-to-rib motions, as if to say "We know you're just saying that to sound nonchalant. Everybody feels the pressure."

You see, if you are between 25 and 30, you have a few socially acceptable behaviors:
1. Marriage, procreation, or both.
2. Self deprecation for not having achieved #1.
3. Smug disdain for those partaking in either #1 or #2. (Who would want to be married before they're 30 anyway?! Yuck!)

What is unacceptable? Contentment with being single (or unmarried, or apartment-dwelling, or childless) paired with joy for all the people you love who are going through crazy, beautiful, life-altering new experiences. I am taking a stand for that camp, and I hope more people will join me.

I am here to make these declarations. It is okay to still be figuring it out. It is fine if you're not ready. You are allowed to hold out for the perfect partner. You are permitted to be in love with someone and not hearing wedding bells just yet. Just be happy. Be hopeful. Be deliberate. Be the best bridesmaid you can be.

My time will come. I will be ready when I'm ready.

Until then, I will snap the photos, drive the miles, hold the veils, cry the happy tears, and Pin all the Pins with all the enthusiasm these tasks deserve. I will love, let love, and root for love. And I will wait my turn.


Always a Bridesmaid, Someday a Bride

09 February 2013


In the west Texas town where I grew up, the sun comes down hard on its people
Like a disapproving father
A mountain silhouette wraps its arms around you,
its anemic air simultaneously giving life and making it hard to breathe.
Like a mother torn between nursing her baby
and smothering it.
Clouds cast moving shadows on the hillsides,
mocking the shapes of birds and snakes.
Like the light show puppets
my father used to sing me to sleep.

I ran from these hills once.

But they do not begrudge me.
Each time I return, they greet me like a prodigal.
Golden poppies unroll like a welcome mat across the valley.
Cacti lift their prickly arms to wave 'hello'.
Mountain peaks stand at attention
and stars twinkle lullabies.

And I take a slow, intentional breath,
Do everything I can to commit to memory the hollowed voice of the summer breeze.
The fault lines and furrows of my father's hands.

05 January 2013

The adventure that almost wasn't. On overcoming fear...

My friend and colleague, Lauren, writes over at I'm Better in Real Life.  She has a way with making the everyday extraordinary. She chronicles her adventures, shares her misadventures, and occassionally taunts Republicans. It's all real life and it's all entertaining.

Last month, I had the honor of sharing a post with her readers about my adventure in New York City. Check it out!

One of the things I really love about my job is that I get to travel. During my first week, I trained in San Francisco where I met Lauren, who I soon discovered to be my uncanny counterpart in the universe. Then I got to go to New York City for the first time and ride a subway and eat hotdogs on the street and wear one of those shamefully cheesy I <3 NY hoodies and it was glorious.

So, when I got the opportunity to plan another business trip to the Big Apple, I was definitely excited. Then, a week before my trip, Sandy went all woman scorned, ripping up boardwalks and flooding subway stations and whatnot. The news footage was awful and New Yorkers and New Jers(ians?) were devastated. And I was…terrified.

I may have had a minor meltdown and begged my boss to delay my trip, citing impossible public transportation conditions, a cancelled reservation at a closed hotel, and ohmygosh what if Sandy comes back for more? I begged, I pleaded. Please don’t make me.

Ultimately, I had to answer to my boss’s boss about cancelling a costly trip. It was kind of like when you ask your dad for something, knowing he will say yes. Then he says “ask your mom.” And you’re like…never mind. When I had to explain my objections to the big boss, I was suddenly very embarrassed. I realized I was sounding like a big, ungrateful whiner. “I have to go to Manhattan?! And stay in a fancy hotel? For FREE? Woe is me!!”

And so my pride won over my fear and I went. But not without some considerable pouting and a [possibly subconscious] delay that almost made me miss my flight.

New York City is resilient. She’d bounced back by the time I’d arrived. Besides some stores being shut down near the seaport, the city was going about business as usual.

On the work side of the trip, I got to schmooze with some of the big shots in the company. They were impressed by my insight and my confidence in giving them constructive feedback about recent goings-on. I learned that the scope of my job is much larger than I thought, and I ended feeling re-energized and excited to get back to the office and put new things into play.

Basically, I owned it.

In the evenings, I was on my own. Oh, hello fear! You again! Alone in New York with the bad guys, and the big crowds, and the people who would surely know I’m an awkward solo girl. On the first night, I elected to stay in.

On Tuesday, I had a talk with my mother. She said she was so proud of me and my new job. Doing all the things she wished she could. Going places! Seeing the world! She was amazed at what a strong, confident woman I’ve become. Little did she know, I’d spent the previous night locked in a 150 square foot hotel room watching Pawn Stars and ordering room service. Mothers always just know what to say, don’t they?

At that I decided to take control of my situation, live up to my name, and stomp out fear.

In that moment everything changed. I navigated the streets and the avenues and the subway tunnels all on my own. I ate alone at bars in fancy restaurants, striking up conversations with strangers. I ordered an appletini because that’s what Carrie Bradshaw would do. I sat by myself in Bryant Park, drinking hot cider and watching ice skaters glide under the Christmas lights. I saw a musical on Broadway. I passed by Henry Winkler on the street, and he laughed at the face I made when I registered that he was The Fonz(!), then he waved at me and smiled. I stood in the middle of Grand Central Terminal and watched thousands of people swirl around me until I was dizzy with pure joy. I had a fall fling with New York City.

I had a beautiful, magical, so unreal, one-week fling with New York City – my greatest adventure yet. And it almost didn’t happen.

What adventures have you allowed your fear or uncertainty to steal from you? (There’s still time!) What great adventures have you had that were nearly missed because you were afraid?