MAO, You Know Better

I need to talk this one out with my favorite therapist: my keyboard.

I’ve been tagged in all the things and murmuring in the groups and dryly commenting snips of my opinion on my Facebook timeline, but then I thought – wait, what am I so afraid of saying out loud? I haven’t held a title in 11 years and I’m completely and fully retired…but I’m still tight-lipped under the fear and shame of actually speaking my mind. I’m still afraid of not sounding like everyone’s favorite sweet, demure, mild-tempered, crown-wearing inspiration. I’m still living under the censor of Miss America.

But I’m not a titleholder any more. I’m a bold, fierce, grown woman who is ready to fearlessly and fully step into her purpose and calling. At least, I’m trying to be. And with that dedication of rebuking inhibitions, let me tell you what I really think – or at least, ask the challenging questions:

I wonder how my sons would feel if someone said those awful things about their mother and I wonder how they would feel if no one did anything about it…

 1.       Miss America Organization, what do you think are you doing? (Hear me saying that in my most disapproving Mom Voice) Why are you dragging your heels and deliberating over what is very clearly a cut and dry decision? Netflix, CBS and NBC all acted more swiftly and justly than you – and they are for-profit entities. In taking time to “properly” “investigate” (those are air quotes, by the way), you are putting one wealthy white male’s fragility above hundreds of thousands of strong, brilliant, ambitious women you claim to represent and uplift. You’re brushing off all of our #metoo stories, all of our social platforms, all of our hard work and dedication to becoming our best selves and helping the next wave of young women to climb upon our shoulders and achieve higher. Shame. On. You. Suspension? Really? That’s lazy. It’s ineffective, it’s inconsiderate, it’s rude. You, too are a victim of your own censorship; your own imposed keeping-up-appearances lifestyle. It’s time to get raw and vulnerable, and pull the plug on this middle-ground girl-next-door façade. We all know, well-behaved women seldom make history (thank you, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich), so let’s put some hot sauce on these unsalted boiled carrots. It is 2017! In the year of the #metoo campaign, the silence-breakers being our persons of the year, with the march of the nasty women in pink pussy hats, you know better.  

It’s time to get raw and vulnerable, and pull the plug on this middle-ground girl-next-door façade.

2.       When people find out I was Miss Michigan, their gut reaction is, “Well, gosh I can see why, you are SO BEAUTIFUL!” I choke on my immediate response and accept the compliment – truly, I appreciate the kind words. What makes me gag a little is that people STILL think all we do is smile and wave and say “world peace.” They don’t know about the years I spent practicing my cello until my fingers were numb and immovable; they don’t know about the hours I spent dancing until my toes bled and physically training my body to do beautiful and amazing things on the stage. They don’t know about the hours I spent writing and speaking about the need for cultural diversity at all levels of everything that is American, and how much better humanity would be if we took a moment to empathize and converse with someone of a different background. They don’t know about the time spent writing and rewriting my life view essays, training, and crying, and holding my sisters’ hands as we work ourselves raw to put ourselves through school, and add something worthwhile to our resumes – all so that we can climb just one more rung in the ladder that is still a white man’s world.

Miss Michigan Octavia Reese
(C) misswaynecounty.org

The masses still think we are just money-making babes in bikinis and most of them associate us all with Trump’s Miss USA ties. Well, The Miss America Organization is vastly different from the Miss USA Pageant – at least it was until the news broke out. Today, the MAO in the news is nothing but a mirror of the same demeaning, dismissive, heartless, thoughtless, disconnected attitude towards women and genuine character that we see in the White House. It’s disgusting. To the MAO Board, it is your lack of action that is putting ratings, broadcast backing, viewership and support in jeopardy – not the CEO’s deplorable behavior. If you say you’re different, be different. Do the hard thing. Be bold. Be fearless. Maybe we just need a woman of color running that place. We made it happen in Alabama. Let’s get it done in MAO.

Today, the MAO in the news is nothing but a mirror of the same demeaning, dismissive, heartless, thoughtless, disconnected attitude towards women and genuine character that we see in the White House.

 3.       Miss America is NOT just another beauty pageant. It used to be. It was made to be. But it has since evolved into the largest scholarship organization in the country, helping to put young women through school and repay student loans. It is the only “pageant” system that requires talent on and off the stage. We have intimidating academic aspirations and accomplishments; we donate hours upon hours of our time and talent to spur our society onto some better version of itself; our cultures, practices and skin tones and bodies come from all curves of the globe; we eat right, work out, take care of our families and friends, and we look damn good doing it. It’s time that the state and national leadership – reflected this. Why isn’t Miss America being run by a woman and backed by a thoughtful, compassionate, world-changing, forward-thinking, culturally and ethnically diverse, Board?

As a mother of half-white sons, I wonder what they think of me. I wonder how they see my role in their lives and how that translates to all women – all Black women. I wonder if I’m raising them to be the kind of man that will not only NEVER call a woman a c*nt, but would also bravely stand up to the kind of disgusting man that would. I wonder if they will not look at a woman as “other” or “less than.” I wonder if they see my hard work and will in turn do that hard work themselves, or if they will just expect other woman to pick up the slack for them. I wonder these things. I lose sleep over these things. I pray that my boys will grow into men that know better. Men that wouldn’t bring another white man onto an already monochromatic team – men that will deliberately look to work for and with and uplift women of all colors – men that will be honorable and make just and fast and swift decisions with compassion and care, putting the safety and peace of mind of others before their own selfish gain…and I wonder how my sons would feel if someone said those awful things about their mother and I wonder how they would feel if no one did anything about it…

~ OR

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Strong

Last night a dear friend and I dined and caught up. As I vulnerably told her about my /failed/ marriage and my /semi/ functional family, she asked, “Octavia. Are you alone?”

I paused. I chuckled.

“Yes.”

“You have the weight of the wor–how do you come skipping into church every week!?”

And yes, I do skip. And hop. And laugh. And smile.

And no, it is not fake.

I do have a lot to process. And I do feel like crumbling most days. But I don’t crumble. I’m strong. And I surprise myself how much everyday.

~OR

Stubborn

 

stub·born
ˈstəbərn/
adjective
  1. having or showing dogged determination not to change one’s attitude or position on something, especially in spite of good arguments or reasons to do so.
    “he accused her of being a silly, stubborn old woman”

 

 

 

 

 

#sorrynotsorry

Today – and as I grow, heal, mature, and hopefully evermore – I am stubborn. Being the peacekeeping, balance-loving, diplomatic Libra that I am, I usually believe there is always a compromise and solution – we just need to explore the possibilities and find it. But there are some things I have learned are nonnegotiable. Some things are what they are – some people are who they are – and I’m finally learning to be unapologetically me.

So, Sorry. I’m not sorry. The list below is my final farewell to things about myself I have learned to love, despite others’ – yes real people’s – strong suggestions to change, eliminate, or “correct” – and yes, I said “correct” with a side-eye.  Skip you. I’m not sorry.

I’m not sorry for having a wide nose.

I’m not sorry for having full lips.

I’m not sorry for having brown skin.

I’m not sorry for having dark scars.

I’m not sorry for having dark brown eyes.

I’m not sorry for looking like Vanessa Williams.

I’m not sorry for having a bubble butt.

I’m not sorry for having a lisp.

I’m not sorry for having a crooked smile.

I’m not sorry for having brown gums.

I’m not sorry for having bulging eyes.

I’m not sorry for not talking how you think I should talk.

I’m not sorry I’m independent.

I’m not sorry I’m not attached to my phone.

I’m not sorry I didn’t want a second date.

I’m not sorry I passionately want to explore all my talents.

I’m not sorry I want to be a working mother.

I’m not sorry the laundry isn’t always clean.

I’m not sorry the house isn’t always spotless.

I’m not sorry I hate shaving my arm pits.

I’m not sorry I get hair bumps when I do reluctantly shave them.

I’m not sorry I also hate shaving my ahem…

I’m not sorry I don’t shower every day.

I’m not sorry I have thick, coarse, self-knotting hair.

I’m not sorry I have short nails.

I’m not sorry I have rough palms.

I’m not sorry I love everyone.

I’m not sorry I love white people.

I’m not sorry I love black people.

I’m not sorry I’m black.

I’m not sorry my pelvis isn’t flexible.

I’m not sorry I don’t always enjoy chicken wings.

I’m not sorry I’m allergic to watermelon.

I’m not sorry I defy your stereotypes.

I’m not sorry I have stripy stretch marks after carrying four children.

I’m not sorry I will never look the same in a bikini.

I’m not sorry for wearing a bikini.

I’m not sorry for being vulnerable.

I’m not sorry for speaking freely.

I’m not sorry for having ideas.

I’m not sorry for talking.

I’m not sorry for speaking up.

I’m sorry for singing.

I’m not sorry for refusing to work for free.

I’m not sorry my name is hard to pronounce.

I’m not sorry I’m afraid of the dark.

I’m not sorry I’m a slow reader.

I’m not sorry I don’t enjoy deep analytical conversations.

I’m not sorry for walking away from an abusive situation.

I’m not sorry for exiting an abusive conversation.

I’m not sorry for refusing to participate in gossip.

I’m not sorry having a tattoo.

I’m not sorry for wanting a hundred more.

I’m not sorry for liking tattoos.

I’m not sorry for being attractive.

I’m not sorry for dressing well.

I’m not sorry for not giving you my phone number.

I’m not sorry for not smiling when I don’t feel like smiling.

I’m not sorry for following my dreams.

I’m not sorry for loving karaoke.

I’m not sorry for enjoying TV.

I’m not sorry for loving a day on the couch.

I’m not sorry for having abstract ideas.

I’m not sorry for being creative.

I’m not sorry for not fitting into your box.

I’m not sorry for not being Michelle Obama.

I’m not sorry for having goals.

I’m not sorry for laughing too loud.

I’m not sorry for dancing too much.

I’m not sorry for being silly.

I’m not sorry my feet stink some times.

I’m not sorry for farting.

I’m not sorry for slacking on my pedicures.

I’m not sorry for having a sweet tooth.

I’m not sorry for having three children.

I’m not sorry I refused to be talked down to.

I’m not sorry for being intuitive.

I’m not sorry for being right.

I’m not sorry for making mistakes.

I’m not sorry for being happy.

I’m not sorry for being sad.

I’m not sorry for needing help.

I’m not sorry for falling in love.

I’m not sorry for changing my mind.

I’m not sorry for believing in magic.

I’m not sorry for being Christian.

I’m not sorry for looking for the truth in all religions.

I’m not sorry for saying, “No.”

I’m not sorry for being strong.

I’m not sorry for being brave.

I’m not sorry for not counting calories.

I’m not sorry I’m finally starting to know my worth.

I’m not sorry for being Octavia.

 

~OR