Also at fault …

As the trial of George Huguely V ends its first week, I don’t know what makes me angrier. The fact that Huguely beat the crap out of Yeardley Love, or the fact that so many people saw this coming and didn’t go out of their way to prevent an attack and her subsequent death.

To the women who read Huguely’s email to Love, the message that stated that he should have killed her, you are culpable. You pushed aside a threat when you could have aided a teammate and a friend.

To the men who said they would stage an intervention, in light of Huguely’s excessive drinking, you’re in contempt, too. Too little, too late.

Courtroom sketch from the George Huguely V trial, via the Washington Post
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Supermodel behaving badly?


Gisele, let’s talk.

You and me. Woman to woman.

I know the feeling of a major loss – heck, I was in despair for a few minutes after last year’s Super Bowl. For a few days after the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals. For a few more days after I lost my job, too.

And you probably had a few drinks in you as you took that walk down to meet your husband. And of course you were already in a heightened emotional state. It’s only the biggest game of your husband’s life.

But did you have to go and yell at the plebians who ultimately succeeded in provoking you? You are one of the hottest, wealthiest women in the world, married to one of the hottest, wealthiest athletes in the world. You’ve got enough to hold your head high and keep looking and moving forward.

Plus, you had your posse around you. I like to think of myself as a brave woman, but even I wouldn’t mess with Bianca Wilfork. She’s the mama wolf.

Brandon Jacobs, meanwhile, will probably be painted as a misogynist because he said you needed “stay cute and shut up.” I’ll say this at the risk of having my feminist card suspended for a few days, but he has a point.

With the cameras rolling, you made a bad personal PR move by not taking the high road. You should have just shut up, stayed strong and kept walking.

Somehow, the behavior was condoned …

via the Washington Post

Being a defense attorney has to be one of the most morally challenging occupations. Chances are, you’re dealing with a person who is guilty of a crime. Your role, somehow, is to either play the devil’s advocate or craft a strong enough defense that somehow lessens the severity of the crime your client has committed … or somehow justifies the crime your client has committed.

If you’re George Huguely, your team of attorneys has gone public with its defense in the Yeardley Love murder case.  Huguely, a former University of Virginia lacrosse player, is accused of killing his former girlfriend in May of 2010. The trial began Monday with jury selection in Charlottesville, Va.

From the Baltimore Sun:

Huguely’s lawyers are expected to argue that Love was taking prescription medication and drinking the night she died, which may have contributed to her death. Huguely has admitted to police that he fought with Love that night, shaking her repeatedly so that her head hit a wall, but he denies killing her.

“It is undisputed that a man hurt a woman. It is undisputed, that is fact,” Rhonda Quagliana, one of Huguely’s lawyers, said during jury questioning. She also said the “cause of death is a contested issue in this case.”

A former college classmate told me that the defense’s job is to find enough doubt in the prosecution’s case.

But the case of George Huguely and the murder of Yeardley Love – academic and athletic products of private schools, part of a close-knit athletic community both at the University of Virginia and in the enclave of lacrosse – expose something deeper: another angle of the underbelly of upper-middle class suburbia.

I know why this resonates with me. Because I knew many teenagers like Huguely and Love – pretty, privileged, popular, athletic, always seemingly surrounded by their “best friends” and their “fellas” and the members of their “clan.” There was a certain sense of elitism that surrounded this small caste, and after the details of the George Huguely case emerged, I wondered something: how did the boys in this artificially powerful caste treat these girls? And how did the girls treat the boys? And how did they collectively treat each other? Did they – with the exception of a few individuals – treat each other how they treated their seemingly lesser classmates?

But the case also hit me in another way: We approach the 20-year anniversary of the murder of one of our classmates.

Yes, 20 years ago this month, the former quarterback at my high school killed another classmate over a girl.

People don’t believe me when I tell the story. The quarterback drove a Corvette, had the cutest girlfriends and was the centerpiece of the best parties … and he killed another guy over a girl. As the months went by, following his arrest, more of us found out from each other about his behavior, both prior to the murder and growing up with us. We witnessed some pretty misogynistic behavior from a teenager yet somehow we socially condoned it. But – and this has been asked in the case of Huguely and Love – how could this all have been stopped?

The case was barely a whisper at the most recent reunion – probably because we were all having such a good time, we didn’t stop to recall the controversy and the tragedy. But in 1992, the case polarized our school. It still polarizes us. Our former classmate pled guilty to first-degree murder and is still incarcerated. Each time he asks for parole, he is met by a group of former classmates who voice their disgust and outrage that, years later, he still asks for a chance at life “on the outside.” At the same time, he has a group of friends who attend each court hearing in his support … and a handful of them who still contend that somehow, the murder was justified.

But what justifies one person taking another human’s life? Better yet, what justifies our decision to condone it? Or to turn the other cheek and condone the actions that lead to such a tragedy?

***

I’m going to add a note to this: if you or anybody you know is a victim of domestic violence, you have the power to do something about the situation. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), an organization that will help you or direct you to resources that will help you.

If you’re a teenager or a college student and know someone in this situation, take your concerns to someone you trust: a teacher, a parent, a coach, a school administrator. In the wake of Yeardley Love’s death, I urged my friends and family who were parents, teachers and coaches to reach out to their children, students and athletes and discuss the topic of domestic violence and the social issues that teenagers may confront.

What’s in the bag?

As you probably know by now, I grew up in a predominantly white, predominantly upper middle-class community outside of Washington D.C. Which fostered a bit of entitlement. And which brought gifts. See, even at 15 years old, the athletes were spoiling each other and getting spoiled.

On Fridays during field hockey and lacrosse season, teammates secretly gave other teammates gift bags of candies, snacks, cards and trinkets – the tradition known as “Secret Santa.” This was a long-standing tradition among the female athletes at my high school.

On the field hockey team, we drew our Secret Santas out of a hat. As a sophomore, I drew a senior. The person who drew me? Well, by the process of elimination, it wasn’t difficult to figure out who mine was. She was a sophomore, too, and in the first few weeks of the season, she was a shitty Secret Santa. I’m still convinced Carrie’s lack of thought into the creation and assembly of my Secret Santa bag was an immediate reflection of the fact that she disliked me.

Thus the lack of ingenuity within the first few iterations of her brown paper bag: I’d get a few Snickers or Milky Way miniatures, a handful of those peppermint candies you get with the bill at any restaurant, maybe a roll of Smarties and a Post-It note that read “Good luck” – all of which, combined, barely covered the bottom of said brown paper bag. I even went so far to announce in the middle of French class – and in front of a handful of teammates – that “I have a shitty Secret Santa.”

Stunned silence from teammates. Including Carrie’s best friend. After that, my Secret Santa bag got a little heavier and its offerings a little more diverse. It wasn’t like other bags – girls were getting garage-door sized chocolate bars, massive rolls of Life Savers or fist-sized stuffed animals – but somehow, the squeakiness of my wheel got the oil.

Yet because of Carrie’s early-season lack of ingenuity, I seriously considered withholding my offerings to my Secret Santa recipient. But that would be projecting, wouldn’t it? And I wasn’t going to project my issues onto a senior who was a very good person. Besides, creating Judi’s bag was an adventure. Not just because Judi was a good person but because she loved fruit. Every Thursday meant picking something new to go inside of her bag. Grapes. Bananas. Kiwi. Peaches. Apples. It required consideration. And I liked it when Judi would tell everybody on the bus, “Oranges! Yes!” It validated my decision-making abilities and my worth as a teammate.

I played softball in the spring, and as a team we voted down the “Secret Santa” tradition. It was too frivolous and too much of a time investment. But the lacrosse team did it, and in the spring of my senior year, the lacrosse team made a list of what each girl wanted in her gift bag, posted at the entrance of the locker room for every athlete to see.

Susannah wanted Snackwells.

Katy wanted Sweet Success desserts – only 74 calories in a serving!

Daria wanted Diet Coke.

Jamie wanted anything sugar-free.

Amy wanted anything that was fat-free.

Don’t hurt anyone’s feelings and get them something with – gasp! – empty calories and a high fructose content!

I guessed that the lacrosse team exchanged rice cakes, cottage cheese and green beans on a weekly basis. In an attempt to foster team camaraderie, little did some realize they were either promoting teenage malnutrition and/or adolescent eating disorders.

Now I’m not saying the softball team was superior to the lacrosse team in the lack of gift-giving, but it was self-serving to see a list of all the goodies these girls wanted … posted in front of the locker room for every girl who participated in sports and enrolled in physical education to see. That list epitomized greed and elitism. If someone tore it down, I wouldn’t have been heartbroken.

I have no clue if the tradition is still even around. If it is, I shudder to think what today’s Secret Santa gift bags include. Pandora charms. iTunes gift cards. Lindt chocolates. Sparkly nail polishes. Maybe a few girls even ask for fat-free, low-cal, n0-sugar non-food-colored cookies. (not that there’s anything wrong with gluten-free.)

And to the person who has a less-than-stellar Secret Santa? I get it. Entirely.

Love, Peace and Soul (Train)

I’d tell you exactly where I was when I learned of Don Cornelius’ death … but in the name of confidentiality, I won’t. However, I’ll tell you exactly what went through my mind as I looked up at the television, tuned to CNN, and saw the text underneath the video of Don Cornelius, in a spiffy black pinstriped suit.

DON CORNELIUS 1936-2012

As a fan of R&B, Motown, soul and hip-hop music, I was shocked to learn of Cornelius’ death as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. I was saddened. A person who bridged a racial and societal gap in pop culture and who revolutionized music was gone.  His legacy will live on in so many episodes of “Soul Train,” a show that needs no words to explain its premise.

If you have Centric TV on your cable, I highly suggest you tune in to old episodes of “Soul Train.” Furthermore, I highly suggest you watch VH1’s documentary on “Soul Train.”

There were two shows I HAD to watch when I was a little kid: “The Muppet Show” and “Soul Train.” Both enriched my desire for sensory stimulation with bright colors, music, audience engagement and interaction. While the Muppets brought alive my love for comedy and satire, “Soul Train” helped create and refine my taste in music.

My parents faithfully watched it, and sang along and danced to the hits that played over our television. My dad has a love for music, and he forged a lot of connections and friendships while working in Prince Georges County in the late 1970s and early 1980s through not only his outgoing, approachable demeanor but also through his appreciation of music and sports.

I grew up in a predominantly white, upper middle-class neighborhood in suburban Washington D.C., where my classmates’ musical tastes drifted more towards Jane’s Addiction, Metallica and Nirvana.

Not my cup of tea, unless it came with two Tylenol and a cold compress.

While my classmates were buying CDs of Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains, I was picking up cassette singles by Karyn White, Mint Condition and Johnny Gill. Instead of WHFS, the Baltimore-Washington alternative station that was in its heyday in the 1990s, the preset dial on the radio of my first car was tuned to WPGC, the Prince Georges County-based R&B station that played everything from Rare Essence to Toni Braxton.

(WPGC newsman David Haines had a saying: “Burnt toast and coffee time.” That was my morning signal to get the hell out of the house and head to school.)

My second preset: Howard University’s WHUR. I still recall my amazement when a high school boyfriend of mine had it pre-set on the dial of his car, too. D.C., by the way, had a killer music scene 20 years ago.

But I’m going off on a tangent. Back to “Soul Train.” Which, yes, I watched and danced around in my living room to, during high school and college.

A Chicago-based show originally broadcast on a small handful of stations, it went into syndication as a result of cooperation with Johnson Products, the creators of Afro-Sheen – a coalition of two African-American entities. “Soul Train” was a conduit brought African-American music into our living rooms and into the mainstream. It showcased not only music but fashion, youth, creativity and a positive environment that encouraged appreciation of all of these things.

When the show exceeded critical mainstream mass, “Soul Train” incorporated traditional white perfomers – Elton John, David Bowie, Teena Marie (who, as ESPN’s Jemele Hill once stated, was the first white girl with soul.) … Bowie’s performance of “Fame” – clearly lip-dubbed – is a thing of strange beauty.

“Soul Train” broke racial barriers and established cultural trends. It promoted the African-American community during a time of racial strife in the United States … and continued to keep its hold on America as our society grew more progressive.

Don Cornelius’ idea not only promoted music – it revolutionized pop culture and created societal connections. Sadly, his death had to remind us of all of this.