Monday, October 31, 2011


When I was growing up I remember people saying,  "the leaf don't fall to far from the tree".  They usually said this to explain familial traits or generational fuck-ups.  "You jest like yo momma or you jest like yo daddy or those Joneses have always been crazy".  It was easier to lump everyone together than to try to understand the individual behavior.  The people in my family were hard drinkers and vicious fighters.  If you said the wrong thing your ass could get cut with a knife or stabbed with an ice pick.  If you really  truly crossed someone...they would pop a cap in yo ass. I can't remember a time growing up when violence was not a part of my everyday life. You had to be just like your peoples. 

For a long time I did not fit in.  I was too soft ....too afraid. I had no voice ...therefore I had no power.  I didn't find my power until my teens....when I was out on my own.  My cousin Rita had no problem with the familial tree and people alway heard her voice.  She would fight at the drop of hat.  Cuss you out if you looked cross eyed at her.  And because of this, she was my protector.  When I was in school or on the playground or just get to me had to go through Rita.  She was my shield against my being "beat-up" by girls who didn't like me. And my very existence was enough it seems for these girls to dislike me.  That and the fact that I never fought back.  I was terrorized so much at Big Mommas that I was afraid of my own shadow.  I had not found my voice.  I visited Rita recently and I asked her why I was the target for these mean girls.  She said :  "they thought you thought you were pretty".   What?! And then she went on to tell me how the boys thought I was pretty and that I had the best shape in the neighborhood.  Her words not mine.

Give me a break.

 They were jealous of something I was totally unaware of (being Pretty) and I something I loathed - the shapely body.  That was so fucked up.  Growing up no one ever told me that  I was pretty or even cute....they would tell me I had a wide nose or a big head.  But never pretty. Pretty to me was all of the long haired light-skinned Shasta Miller or Pamela Hicks.  I can use their real names because to them I was invisible. Or so I thought.  For a long time as an adult I could never accept a compliment on my looks. Someone would call me beautiful and I would immediately be on my guard.  What did they want?  Were they making fun of me? Now I could take a sexy but not a pretty.  I knew I was sexy but that was nothing in my mind to be proud of.   I was in my mid forties before I could see my beauty.  And I am not trying to be vain. I was like the 70 pound anorexic who looks in the mirror and sees a fat person.. I never saw pretty in the mirror until started to forgive myself.  See I thought that my body was all there was to me ...I was ugly ...this shapley body was something to be ashamed of . It attracted unwanted attention when I was growing up.  Later it seemed to define who I was. I was that fine assed ....fill in the blanks.   And I hated it.

 Do you know what its' like to be six years old and have grown men touch you because your of your ass or your hips or your legs?  They would whisper these obscene compliments to me when they caught me alone and pinched or rubbed themselves against my body.  I can still hear their harsh low breathing ....still  feel the wetness of their hands or mouths as they stole my childhood. I have hated my body for a large part of my life because it drew too much attention to me in a house where predators lurked and I was the prey. And now Rita tells me I was pretty and had a banging body.  This world is so fucked up. 

But I will always love Rita because she stood up and tried to do what the grown-up wouldn't do and that was to protect me.  During our talk I brought her up to date with my life after I left the "Alley".   I told her of anger and how I learned to defend myself.   She was so shocked.  Surely this was not Catherine's daughter.  I told her of the rages and the steps I took to insure that I would  never be that defenseless  6....7...8.. 9...10...11...12 year old that girl she protected. I told her of my times in the mental hospitals and the meds and therapy that became a vital part of my sanity.

She listened and as I talked tears ran down her cheeks.  I told her how bad it was for me in that house.  I told her how lonely I was and how her friendship saved me.  I told her that without her intervention I would have never been able to deal with pressure's that came with school and the added stress of adolesence.  I told her of the voices that filled my head as I tried to find my way as a young mother after the rape and being (blessedly) kicked out of Big Mommas.  I told her about "birds of a feather" and how that empowered me to take control of my life.

When I finished, she looked at me and said that she wished she could have protected me from everyone and everything when we were young.  And then I cried.  I cried because I still fight those demons from my childhood.  I cried because I never felt beautiful . I cried because it was not my fault that my body matured before I did. I cried because I was a mother before I quit being a child.  I cried because in finding my voice my anger caused my children so much pain. I cried because I learned to use my words as weapons.

 When I left Rita that day, I thought of my tree and the leaves around it. Growing up I never wanted to be compared to my mother ...but I was a leaf from her tree.   My children....while they berate me for my crazyness when they were young...they revel in their own anger.  When I look into their eyes my reflection stares back at me.  Both of my children need therapy, but they will never admit it or seek it.   My daughter finds escape in weed and sex.  She ridicules the psychotropic drugs my doctor has me on but she would not last a week without a joint. My son's addiction is things.  He has to have the most and the best.  He is his own advertisement.  Within 5 minutes of meeting him you will know of his ten cars, his sucessful business, his phones, his money, his women, his newest expensive toy.  He and I have had a twisted road and because of that our relationship if volatile.  When we fight it starts out as a firecracker which turns into an atomic bomb.  So I keep my distance. He loves me....he hates me.  He will tell you that he is not like his momma but he embraces drama. His temper is fierce.   He rages.  He is a leaf from the tree.  My daughter learned from her mother to use words as weapons.... she will always have the last word in any argument. 

They both carry guns.  They both blame me for something that I did or did not do when they were growing up. They both are repeating my mistakes in their own way. And what of their children?  Will this be generational?  For my children had a great example growing up....they had CATherine's daughter

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Being Real

I come from a long line of big legged, big hipped and big ass women with tiny waists.  Beautiful Women...eye-catching women.  I remember my mother wearing skirts with side splits and white blouses that she always kept tucked in.  She would top it off with a belt that showcased her tiny waist.  My mother had legs that would stop traffic.  I was too young to take notice of the rest, but I would always tell her that when I grew up I wanted her legs.  When she would walk by, men would say "damn Cat yo ass is so fine ...pick a tree...I'll pull it up by the roots and make you a chair ... so you can come and sit by me."  Growing up my body matured fast...too fast...because as a child it attracted the attention of predators.  I was ashamed of my body.  I felt that if it was "normal" I would be safe.  What I didn't realize as a child was that my body was normal...lush...but was the men that molested me that were abnormal.

As I grew into an adult it was the same.  Men  would notice my body, especially  my ass...first. I was never comfortable with my body.  I never enjoyed the attention...I wanted to be a pretty girl...not a body to be lusted after.  Somehow it made me feel less than the other girls, the pretty girls with the average bodies.   I never will understand men's attraction to a big ass.    But I digress.  When I was young and before this insane age of people getting butt implants, I wanted a butt-ectomy.  My word.  I wanted to get my ass reduced somehow.  Between my beautiful legs, my hips and the prize-winning ass ( just quoting some of my admirers through the years) I made it through my young adult years wondering ....did anyone ever look at me above the waist?  I know I have beautiful eyes, and a killer smile.  But guys always came at me with the "your ass is so fine" line.

I think because I never liked my body, I took it for granted.  The stomach would always be tight, the hips and ass would be just right and the legs and thighs would always be those of CATherinesdaughter.

Was my ass wrong  about that or what?   At age 35 my metabolism decided it wanted to take separate vacations from my body.  At age 40 I  knew it (my metabolism) was cheating because it was certainly NOT doing its job.  I was gaining weight and and it was getting harder to loose it.  Around  age 46 a newcomer and not a welcome one- was introduced into the mix.....menopause.  Now that bitch came in and messed up everything.  Can you say everything?  It appears that menopause and metabolism didn't like each other because later that year my metabolism packed up her bags and left for good.  On the other hand menopause decided to set up house for the next 4 years.  I will not even go into the hell of that heifers reign.  Between night sweats, hot flashes, cold flashes, weight gain in places I did not even know I had, hair growing in places that did NOT  need hair and hair falling out of  my scalp....and don't forget the coochie getting dry as the Sahara....wait a minute...I said I wouldn't talk about Ms. Menopause.  No I want to talk about that trick Mz. Metabolism.  When she packed HER bags, I could just look at food and gain weight .  The ass got bigger and I developed these hugh breasts.  I am 5ft. 3 and was beginning to look like Dolly Parton.   I woke up one morning...I swear it was overnight ...My breasts were sagging, my arms were bigger and I had a stomach pouch.  The body I had always taken  for granted decided to leave like a thief in the night. I guess it said "you never appreciated me bitch.....later!" 

So now that brings you to where I am now.  Ms. 50+ and wondering.....Lord if you just let me get a little of my groove back I will never ever complain about having a big ass, just make it firm again  and get rid of the stomach pouch....and make my legs smaller ...and reduce these breasts....and if you see Mz. Metabolism strike that bitch with lightning.  Sorry Lord.

Where am I going with this you say?  Denial.  And it not just a river in Egypt.  Since age 50 I have refused to weigh myself.  Even in the doctors office, the nurse would take one look at my face and walk right on by the scale. See all of the nurses knew if they insisted on me getting on the scale they would have to cancel all of the appointments for the rest of the day because I would turn that office out.  Yes,  the sister would go completely off.  I still get compliments so I would say to myself that it couldn't be that bad.  So what if you go from a size 10 to a 12 , then to a 14 ...then to a 16, I just stopped buying clothes with numbers.  Let's do XL, then XXL.  I just was not keeping it real.  Until I saw a picture of myself last year.  My daughter took me to LA as a birthday gift and while we were strolling through Beverly Hills my grandson took my picture.  I had the nerve to do my America's Next Top Model" pose.  Well.  The pictures were developed.  And there I was posing in my purple dress.  My ass looked like Barney.  But still I made excuses and steared clear of scales.

Which brings us to last week.  I was in New York on 86th street window shopping.  I was standing in front of Orva Shoes and you know how the window reflects your image.  I looked in and gasped ....I said to myself who is that fat woman in that ugly ill-fitting dress.  Girl needs the "What Not to Wear " team and Weight Watchers big time.  I turned my head so that I could get a better look at the poor woman.  My reflection turned its head.  I looked back into the window with my mouth open....the fat woman had her mouth open.  Oh Lord, the fat woman in the ugly dress was me.  Where did my fine-ness go?  Why didn't somebody tell me?  Then...well first let me tell you about Esther.  Esther is the part of my personality that doesn't take any shit, tells it likes it is and is really the part of me that needs the Meds.  Esther said: "bitch that's you!  You made us fat!"  Your ass is so fat it can carry a 5 course meal on it with filled water glasses and not spill an ounce.   I want a divorce...I want to go and stay with Mz. Metabolism."  Now I am one of those people that not only talks to themselves,  I will hold a conversation.  I said (while standing in the middle of the sidewalk in front of Orva's)  "Esther I didn't know"  It's not my fault". Before I could get another word out that bitch (Esther) said: "heifer you knew ..why do you think yo big ass wouldn't get on a scale?  The DMV ought to lock your ass up cause you been walking around here for the last 5 years with a drivers license that says you weight 134 pounds!  If they didn't know it you did!. "  Still she wasn't through.  " If I could get outta this fat for a minute I would beat your ass for messing ME up! And check this  Ms. CATherines daughter yo momma is probably turning in her grave. "   Don't start crying...DO Something!"

Well Esther didn't have to be that mean.  But she ain't never lied.  I knew I was gaining weight just like I knew my first husband was a whore.  So I took my shell shocked ass into Barnes and Noble ....and let me say here that I believe that  the Spirit - GOD  guides you....and the first thing I saw was this book "The 17 Day Diet"....and it was on sale for 30% off ...40% for members and I am a devoted Barnes and Noble member.  The guy just wants 17 days of your life ....and your commitment to getting healthy...and getting your butt up and exercising for at least 17 minutes a day.  I am giving him at least 30 minutes of exercise. I started exercising two days ago and I must admit I feel better.   I know it is going to take more than 17 days to do this.  But I've got the rest of my life.  And this time  I will love my body and embrace my beautiful big ass.  Today is June 1st, I started my next chapter.

Oh and I weighed myself.....217 pounds.  See how committed I am.  I put that shit out into the universe.  But I am CATherinesdaughter and I come from a long line of fine assed women.   Too be continued............

Monday, May 2, 2011


I haven't written in awhile because of  fear.  Fear of revealing too much of myself.  Fear of what others would think of me.  Fear of someone stealing my voice.  For a very long time I was unable to find my voice.  I would mimic others voices.  Their words would become mine.  I didn't want to draw attention to myself.  I never wanted to be on the wrong end of the conversation and have someone lash out at me.  It was easier to be the appeaser.   I did this for so long,  my voice became lost in my head.   When my voice did come out it was  clothed in anger would be the destroyer.  Because I was afraid to be me.  Afraid that anothers words would destroy me I had to make sure mine were more potent.

And it is not just speaking mean to me.  I can be in a regular conversation and I will look for the hidden meanings behind someones words.  It is not always what they say was what I hear.  Now that sounds totally out there...right?  But it makes sense to me.  My close friends understand this.  They know that if  I start to pop off at them....we need to talk.  Have I taken my meds?  Am I stressed?  Do we need to talk about something that was said a week ago that I have been simmering about?   In my youth I could never accept a compliment.  I would always doubt the sincerity.  I have grown out of that...thank goodness.
But once you hurt my feelings, once I find that you cannot be trusted verbally with my emotions..... your ass is grass and I am the lawnmower.

Now I can take a hit.  Just be prepared to get one back.  And be prepared to duck because I grew up with people fighting all the time and they did their very best to mess each other up.  Anything could  and would become a weapon.  I remember people getting stabbed with ice picks.  You don't see those anymore.  But when I was a child,  people would get stabbed with ice picks and die because the wound would be so small but the damage was often fatal.  After the childhood I went through, physical violence always seemed to be a fact of life.   One that had to be guarded against.  When I was young I never thought I would live to see my 30th birthday.  I never knew why I believed that but I did.  And once that birthday came and went I was at lose ends ....I hadn't made any plans for life after that 30th year. The thought of my death doesn't scare me. And during my fight with depression I always kept it on the table as a manner of escape if things got too bad to endure.  I have found that the hardest thing is just living.  Taking each day as it comes and believing that a higher power -God is directing your path.  That's what get me through these days now.  That and trying to learn from my mistakes.

But I still  fear my anger.  Therapy and meds have given me some control but once it becomes ignited the danger of losing control becomes too scary.  It becomes either you or me and I am prepared to sacrifice my life as long as I don't endure the beatings that Catherine did.
I still am Catherinesdaughter.   I still hear her screams.  I still see her face after each beating.  I still want to protect.  I am  still casting myself  into the role of  the protector  Even with my friends.

One day ....a month ago...I went to court with one of my friends to lend her "sister support" during her divorce hearing.  First of all, her husband is a nut case.  He verbally abuses her, steals and sells everything in the house that is not locked down to support his drug and alcohol habit.  She lives in fear of staying with that man and even more fear of leaving him because of his unpredictable anger. So I went to court with her because she knew and HE knew that I was not the one to fuck with.  And it hit me.  My anger was still there. The anger at anyone who abuses.  At anyone  that  That takes advantage of innocence.

 Once I became and adult, I can't really ever remember someone hitting me.  Definitely there were no ass whuppins from the men in my life or anyone else.  All it would take was my perceiving someone as a physical threat and my rage would take over.  My insanity would take over... I think you  could see it in my eyes....the violence ...the loss of control.  And they knew.  They knew that once the violence started it could easily turn into a kill or be killed situation.  For a very very very long time, I had no control when confronted with physical violence.  So  I would try everything  I could to avoid those situations.  I would never become my mother.

But words are another matter all together.  Words still have power over me.  They are my Achilles Heel. Not a slap. Not a punch.  Not a mean look.  It only takes one mean word to do my ass in.  They had and have so much power over me. And then it hit me....why am I giving these people so much of my power?  They know better than to lift a hand to me.  Madea and I both pack.  But why am I letting their words have such credence?

And do I really need to put up this shield of protection between myself and others?  Since that epiphany I am trying to not look for hidden meanings in a persons words.  And if they do speak daggers at me, I try to consider the source and the situation.  Some criticism can be constructive and I try to keep that mindset.  I am taking what I need and leaving the rest.  I am a lot happier these days.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Who do you hate?

I read a book recently in which the devil asked a man: "who do you hate?" The man wanted to change his luck because his life had been so hard and happiness had always eluded him so he made a deal with the devil. To change his life he had to transfer his bad luck - his karma to someone in his life that he was close to.. but whom he hated.  He transferred it to his best friend who he had been jealous of throughout their lives.  It was a wonderful look into the dark side of human nature.

But that question has been turning over and over in my mind. 

I asked myself:  Who do I hate?  And the answer surprised me.  I didn't hate anyone.  My mind reeled at this.  With my childhood I surely  had to hate someone.  Didn't I hate the people who hurt and failed to protect me?  Didn't I? Surely I had to hate Mr. Nap or Mrs. Alberta. Okay, if not them, then the men who visited the liquor house and tormented me...there had to be hate there.  No?   What about the cunning man who raped me, taking my virginity and leaving me with a son when I was only a child myself?  No?  Okay, okay what about the father who almost beat me to death when I was just a toddler?   No?  What about.........?

No I don't hate anyone.   I feel sadness but no hate.  I asked myself, why?  The answer surprised me again.  Forgiveness and power.   I forgive them all.  They took my power when I was young and couldn't protect myself.  As an adult I take back my power.  To let my past control my life now would be letting them still have control over me.  And while I can't go back and change the past, I do have control over my now.

I take back my power.   When I realized that, I also realized I was releasing the anger and the pain of my past and it staggered me.  When did I take back my power?  Did it matter?   Those memories and the pain are things that will always be a part of me.  However, they are not who I am.  They are not what makes me unique...what makes me strong...what makes me a survivor...what makes me Catherines daughter.

I have been in the prison of my past for so long that this new found freedom feels strange.  Don't I need my rage to protect me? 

I remember the first time I saw my father after he was released from prison.  We were strangers.  I don't even think he remembered beating me before he went home and killed his wife.  I remember Big Momma calling me was night and she said: "this yo daddy Neal...he came by heah to see you".  I remember seeing a large man, very dark with huge white teeth.  I was afraid of him.  How could he be my father?  I had only one dark memory of him.   After that first meeting, they arranged for me to visit him at the hotel he lived in- The Mitchell Building- it was a big hotel boarding house on Cotton Avenue.   Cotton Avenue housed most of the black businesses.  Hair salons, juke joints, gambling houses, restaurants   - it was all there.   And the Mitchell Building was  in the center of it all.  People rented rooms by the month, the week and sometimes by the hour.  It was a meeting place for hard men, bootleggers, pimps and pretty women with tight dresses  and red lips. Anyone who loved the fast life would sooner or later make their way to the Mitchell Building.  It was never called Mitchell Building, it was always The Mitchell Building.

And Neal's place was on the first floor by the door.  It would be filled with men and women smoking, drinking, gambling and cussing. My father Neal was a violent man, quick to laugh, quick to pull out his gun and quick to hit his women.  Plural.  There were always at least two of them at his place when I visited.  I would sit in the corner and watch all of this.  Sometimes I felt this out of body experience, like I was standing outside of myself looking at everything  but not really being a part of it.  Everyone knew I was Neal's little girl and they wouldn't think about pulling the mess on me that I went through at Big Momma's. They were too afraid of Neal.  So I was ignored by the men and fawned over by his girlfriends.  I wonder why I never told him what was happening to me at Big Momma's.  Of the torment and cruelty?  I guess I felt I really never had a voice.  Who would listen to me?  Who would care?  I think that I thought I was to blame and I was ashamed.  And I was scared.  I didn't want to make it worse.  I realize now that if I had told him, he would have killed someone.

I usually visited him on Saturdays and one of Neal's girlfriends,  Ms. Henrietta who had a beauty parlor on Cotton Avenue,  would usually wash and hot comb my hair.  I was tender-headed.  I remember getting burned by that hot comb.  You could smell the burned hair and hear the sizzle of the comb as she straightened my coarse locks.   I would eat either fried chicken or fish with collard greens and corn bread afterwards and then he would take me back to Big Momma's house. This was our ritual every other Saturday until the Mitchell Building shut down. 

Little girls and their fathers.  The majority of my life my father was Neal and that was how I addressed him.  It was only a year before his death that things changed.  As he grew older he had mellowed and though I can never  remember a time that he told me he loved me, he would always show up if I were involved in something.   I'd see him in the audience if I did a speech at school or if I received some sort of recognition.  I loved to act and was in several plays  and he would always come to see me in them.  When I became a television personality he always made a point of watching my show:  Noon Over Middle Georgia and my news spots.  He would never praise me, he would just show up or tune in.  There was a longing between us.  It was  as if he didn't know how to express his feelings toward me and I was wary of him.

Time passed and my mother died.  I felt as if the last person in the world that loved me was gone.  My father and I got no closer.

And then I started to become reckless and dangerous to myself and others.  I was so angry.  Neal started to call me just to talk.  He started visiting me.  He was a good grandfather, the love that he could not show me he showered on my two children.  I would catch him looking at me and I would hold my breath......

We started having special lunches together.  Every payday I would take him to a new restaurant and we would talk.  I started to relax in his presence. He would work on my car, a Ford Pinto and tell jokes about it being found on the road dead.  We started laughing together, I started calling him everyday. I love vegetables and he would cook my favorite foods.  I'd visit him.
 And one day while we were watching television at his house,   I called him daddy.  I was scared when I said it.  He sat very still, but I knew he heard me. He didn't say anything but I could feel something changing.   I leaned on him and he leaned back.  We went to sleep that way and someone took a picture of us.  That picture marks the day Neal became my father.  It hangs on my wall today.  After the first time I called him daddy, it  seemed I couldn't say it enough.  

That was in the summer and it was  the beginning of one of the best times of my life.   Thanksgiving came and he got tipsy after dinner and kept hugging me and telling everybody that I was his baby. I finally had my daddy and he loved me and he made me feel protected.  I felt I could finally exhale and relax. 

My father died of a massive heart attack a week and a half before Christmas of that same year.  I felt tricked.  I felt abandoned.   We had just found each other. It was too soon to loose him.   It wasn't fair. I loved him so much.   For a little while I had had a father and I loved him and he loved me...fiercely.

But I was on my own again.  Holding my breath...waiting to see what else would happen.

As I look back now, I see it was not all bad. I had the love of the most important man in my life.  If only for a little while.   And it was good.

 I am Catherines daughter and I hate no one.