Rice, Rice, Baby!

My Big Fat Crush on Condoleezza

The Lexington Avenue Crunch isn't just a gym, it's a vat of eye candy. This is the joint that invented "Cardio Striptease." All the personal trainers are out-of-work models or actresses—this is Manhattan, after all—and even the members look like they got a discount for doling out a head shot. There are lots of pretty people here. I'm not one of them. But being in their company fools me into thinking I could be, and that's all the difference I need for that last set of squats.

Today, though, after six months of Crunch, I'm finding the normal scenery suddenly monotonous and unmoving. I'm sucking wind on the treadmill, needing some inspiration for that final stretch. Jane Sixpack hitting the pull-up bar usually suffices, but today I'm literally calling on a higher power. I look up (no, not that far) to a set of flashing monitors and spot a press conference on CNN. OK, so it's only another White House stiff ruminating on yellowcake, aluminum tubes, and bombs over Baghdad. But it's also my latest crush, and when I see her there I find everything that halters and spandex could never give. Suddenly those tortured laps are a stroll through mountain meadows, and I owe it all to my muse, my one, my Condoleezza Rice.

As always, Rice is sporting meticulous hair and makeup. As always, she's bulldogging through the press corps in a way that belies her dainty veneer. Not that I can make out a damn word she's saying (the volume's off), or follow the swiftly scrolling captions while finishing up. Still, I've seen this act play out so many times, I know how the script goes. My treadmill session ends before the press conference. But I'm left standing there, quite silent, quite smitten.

And smitten by what? No one confuses Rice with Beyoncé Knowles, and she's a little thin for me anyway. Furthermore, she's Lex Luthor evil, man. How else to explain doing the bidding of a mental paralytic like George Bush? Or being the adopted daughter of the clan that brought us Willie Horton, "read my lips," and the slur "evildoers"? Meanwhile, I'm one part lefty, one part race-man. If you cut me I'd bleed green—then red and black, too. What could a Black Panther-sired, Malcolm X-worshiping, People's History of America-toting idealist see in a battle-ax like Condi Rice? Simply put, Rice, with her commanding presence and steely confidence, is the ultimate black woman.

Power has always been a defining feature for black women. African Americans didn't need Gloria Steinem to acquaint us with strong women. Sojourner Truth invented black feminism. Ida B. Wells rode through the South with a pistol in her lap. Hell, my mother regularly jacked me up, well into my high school days. Wells, Truth, and my moms employed their inner strength for the good of mankind—or maybe just for the good of a stupid kid. But their power always captivated me more than their benevolence. And no black woman—maybe in all of history—has wielded more power than Rice.

When Condoleezza Rice struts high-heeled into the Oval Office and dispenses advice, dictators seek plastic surgery, bombs float down over cities, and radicals turn up Jimmy Hoffa. OK, so my infatuation isn't very noble. Neither is pornography. But I'd swear off Heather Hunter in a minute if I could get Condi Rice's press conferences on demand.

To paraphrase Walter Mosley, it's her smile that lays me low. You see it often when she's jousting with, say, Tim Russert. She'll flash it just as he's cornered her with a pointed query. Her eyes light up and her lips part as she reveals an answer that shows Russert has her exactly where she wants him. That smile is written in Ebonics. A loose translation: "I'm here sparring with the best thing white folks have to offer, and I'm creaming him."

That smile is the reason Rice can work for a president who got the lowest percentage of the black vote since Barry Goldwater, and yet still pick up a President's Award from the NAACP. Think Clarence Thomas could do that? It's also why Democrats—who are utterly tied to the black vote—should pray she never runs for office. And lastly, it's the reason why, when Rice is on TV, butterflies catch in my throat like it's a summer net. When she smiles, a special light descends on men like me who detest Rice's morals but still understand her story. Then a voice flashes in our heads, saying, "Condi Rice is not to be fucked with."

My infatuation began with that voice. The first time I heard it, I was reading an anecdote that exhibited her penchant for ball busting. A few years back, Rice was out shopping for some nice jewelry. But a white sales clerk refused to show her the high end, instead steering her to the costume gear. When Rice insisted on seeing the good stuff, the sales clerk mumbled "black trash," under her breath. Rice told her, "Let's get one thing clear. If you could afford anything in here, you wouldn't be behind this counter. So I strongly suggest you do your job."

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