Now You See Me

I had danced that night. But just to be clear, if there’s music, I’m going to dance whether that happens in the car, in Target, or in Safeway. That night, I danced smashed between people, not minding the sweat, the smells, the sometimes offbeatness of the person beside, in front of, behind me. We were all there for the same reason: to enjoy Rev Run reminding us that he is so old school.

He is so old school. So am I. Listen, you don’t want to mess with me when it comes to remembering obscure lyrics to old school songs. Man, that night was fun. There was so much wine, so much sangria (are they the same thing?). I don’t know how I got to the end of the night only having had a few sips. Actually, I do know; it was the music. I was too busy with the music.

There were police officers at the exits, probably because the crowd was large and because there was alcohol. Melanie asked Poppy to carry her wine out for her because the cops won’t stop a white woman. Poppy said something like, You don’t think they’ll stop me with a big ass glass of wine? Tonya had a quizzical look too. I smiled. Melanie smiled. We knew. Adult delinquent that she is, Poppy said sure, fill ’er up. Oh, don’t look at me like that. We’re four grown women fully aware that we aren’t supposed to take the wine out. We were wrong, sure, can’t argue that. We weren’t buzzed, no one was drunk, just carefree, enjoying the California night, walking back to our hotels.

We walked out together. Poppy walked by the cops and received nary a glance. Melanie walked out and immediately an officer was upon her, asking her to dump her drink because, you see, it’s not allowed outside the party area. Oh. Maybe he thought Poppy had water. I can’t remember whose drink was dark. Does it matter? They both had cups. It’s to be assumed they both had wine coming out of a party serving wine.

I’ve been detained before. I’ve been questioned. I’ve been followed and harassed and I’ve been eyed suspiciously. Hell, I’ve been outright accused. But this was the first time it happened with people who aren’t black, who don’t experience this treatment regularly. They know it exists and they know it happens. But witnessing it firsthand, realizing that your black friends adjust their behavior because they know what’s coming? That’s what I’ve been thinking about incessantly. I don’t want to be the reason they know for sure the stories they hear are not trumped up. And yet, I am part of the reason. My skin color makes me part of the reason.

And then Tonya asked what I didn’t want to address: How did you know they would stop you? I didn’t want to talk about it, didn’t want my white friends to know how naked I felt, how exposed, with their seeing, their knowing, how it feels to anticipate behavior from someone else. Melanie looked at Tonya like she had two heads, which actually pissed me off because I know Tonya. She is aware. She is smart. She knows shit like this happens. But when it’s thrust into your face and rubbed into your eyes, all you can do is question. How did you know they would stop you? You KNEW they would.

We just know.

I thought Tonya was going to walk back there and tell those cops what she thought about this bullshit, she spun around so fast. It was like a flash of grenades going off inside me, bombs that hit fast and hard, then rained down in my insides, causing pinpricks of sweat under my arms. I knew she absolutely could go back and say something, our wrongness for purposely taking the drinks out becoming moot. It never crossed my mind to contest Melanie’s poured out wine. It never occurred to me because it’s simply not something I, as a black woman, would dare to do. I knew Melanie would be stopped and I knew I would keep walking.

I started walking.

The grenades are still going off, alarms are ringing in my head. Keep walking, Tonya. Please don’t go back, because I can neither leave you here to contend with what I’m used to any more than I can continue to walk away. It feels like someone came behind me and put a cloak over my head, draped it around my body. There are weights at the shoulder seams that force my neck south, slow my gait, make me feel decrepit, tired from dealing with the same shit, the same shit, repeatedly, continuously, lesser, worse. The hood keeps falling forward as I look at my white friends. It falls with every step, making it darker, darker. If I close my eyes they’ll be invisible. It’s funny. I vacillate between wanting to be seen, noticed, feeling like my very presence, because I’m black, is so often overlooked. And yet, this time, because I am Melanie and she is me, we were seen. Oh, but how I wish we could have strode out and not been noticed. But then it’s not fair, regardless of color, to expect to only be seen when good.

I am good. Can you not tell just by looking at me? I want it to be written on me, tattooed into my skin this one is a good one; don’t let the color make you think differently.

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Sometimes, I like to pretend that I’m immune to things happening just because I’m black. Once, in the subway, I was stopped because the officer said I hadn’t swiped my card. As a regular on the train, I know it’s unnecessary to let the turnstile close behind each person. You simply tap your card. Whether it closes doesn’t matter; what matters is that your card is read. A white man went through, then two white women, me, and another white woman behind me. None of us let the gate close. The officer walked up to me and asked to see my card so that he could verify I had paid because I was so close to the woman ahead of me. I still remember the grenades, like synapses in my brain, flashing. Head fireworks. I heard them. They nearly drowned out the two white women who protested on my behalf. “You didn’t stop me, and I nearly stepped on her heels.” I hated that I needed them to tell someone else that I was good, to vouch for me, to see past black.

The night of the wine, when the officer stopped Melanie, the atmosphere changed immediately. The previously jovial night was sullied now with the soot of reality. It inserted itself on our lenses, then smeared its icky black goo into our beings. I am black inside and out.

I am forever tainted. By this, by everything, by too much.

The Dishes Are Undone — A Review of Dr. G’s Parenting Guide

When I think of the issue I need the most help with at this stage of parenting my children aged 13, 11, and 5, I think of chores. Specifically, I think of the dishes. I don’t mind doing the dishes; it’s calming sometimes, but it helps if there isn’t a ton. If the sink is full, I’m more likely to not want to do the dishes. I will wash what I need, then get upset after dinner that everything is dirty again. And then I go to bed because ain’t nobody got time to care about the dishes until the next morning when that someone has to wash something in order to use it. It’s a vicious cycle.

Chores and their importance to your family — the development and independence of your child and maintenance of your parental sanity — is just one of the topics covered by parenting expert, Dr. Deborah Gilboa (Dr. G, but I get to call her Debi. Please to be eyeing me jealously) in her book, Get the Behavior You Want…Without Being the Parent you Hate!

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Let’s back up: I described her as a parenting expert. Early on in the book she explains that she is just that — an expert — on the four boys who live in her home. I am an expert on my children just as you are an expert on yours. Hers is a parenting guide with practical advice, not a preachy “you must do this because you’re singlehandedly ruining future generations.” Her suggestions are understandable, common sense methods to get kids to do what needs doing, even how to respond to the inevitable I ain’t doin’ that.

So, dishes. I created a chart (with colors!) that showed who was to do what on what day after we sat as a family and chose which days made sense for what task (nothing on Friday nights. I’m no monster). Since they were so excited about the chart, I thought there’d be no resistance if I had to remind them whose day it was to do what. To be clear, there are some things that are done daily: sweeping, clearing the table. There are also some things that I wish they’d do on their own, like empty a bathroom trash can when it’s full because come on, how do you not see that?

But then there are the things we chose days for like doing the dishes or folding laundry. In under a week I was gently reminding and then full on DO IT OR ELSE. And then? Then I got lazy and tired of needling and went back to doing it myself because I do it best and it’s easiest and IT’S DRIVING ME CRAZY.

Chores teach good lessons. Children learn to contribute and expect things from themselves in addition to those around them. And many hands make light work. Lighter work for you means more time to enjoy your family, and better parenting.

Dr. G gives the perfect advice about why I need to be consistent, too:

Chores teach children how a family works day to day. Doing chores protects them (and you) from the entitled attitude that everyone around them should make things happen for them without their own work.

What happens when your child doesn’t do something? Consequences. Stick with them. It pays off. Think of some beforehand. It works. Dr. G even advises on what to do if none of her suggestions work. That’s how effective the book is: she knows not everything will work in every family, for every child. And yet, she tackles that as well. Read chapter 59. You’ll thank me.

Think of the myriad things entailed in effective parenting. There are so many things we must cover, explain, teach, show our children before we should release them into the world to act as though they have no home training. Cooking, cleaning, laundry, kindness, sharing come to mind. What doesn’t usually come to mind, though, is seeking external ideas on how to handle these things. I may gripe to my friends and family about something parenting related, but I’m not necessarily expecting an answer. I assume I’ve tried everything they’d offer anyway. Desperate, I usually turn to a book. When you get to the bottom of your idea jar, where do you go? There are books on everything, but I guarantee you will not find one that will be as relatable and filled with usable suggestions as Dr. G’s guide to effective parenting. Even the layout is perfect: it’s not meant to be read cover to cover. Rather, you pick the section you need help with right then and bam! Ideas. Adapt as you need to, but at least you’ve gotten new ideas.

Discipline, resilience, kindness, responsibility. Dr. G covers these things and more. Got a stubborn toddler? She’s got you covered. Got a willful elementary schooler? A sassy middle schooler? Covered. A rude teenager? That too. Tired of your own yelling or need help instituting consequences? Those too. Dr. G’s advice contains no judgment, no snark. It’s simply useful, easy to implement, stick-to-able stuff.

So, do you need help, fresh ideas, even a licensed professional to let you know you aren’t ruining your kids? Here’s your chance to win a copy of Dr. G’s book! Leave a comment to receive one entry toward winning.
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Learn more about Dr. G on her YouTube channel, Ask Dr. G.  

 

I received an advance copy of Dr. G’s book, but all rambling thoughts are my own.    

I Have Psychic Powers But I Rebuke Them In The Name of Idris Elba

Listen. I’m not going to bullshit you. I know how this is going to sound, but I also know that you know I am of (mostly) sound mind. I am not going to try to sell you a van down by the river. I am not going to try to sell you a timeshare available on the sixth Sunday of the month on an island reachable only by a blind dolphin-guided boat. I am, however, going to tell you something you may find unbelievable. But, you’re in luck! It’s much more believable than Tupac still being alive. Please don’t stone me.

Following is an almost, but not quite, semi-precise account of what transpired today and how I learned I have psychic powers that I should totally be compensated for.

There I was, minding my business, riding along on the bus when my brain said to my eyes, hey, y’all, look left. I think there’s a bug. So, my eyes, curious, looked left. And sure enough, there it was: a small brown roach crawling on a young man’s gym bag. He was standing beside the woman seated next to me. The bug stopped and looked at me.

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Let me stop here to explain my reaction. If you don’t have a previous traumatic roach experience, it’s gonna be hard for me to enlighten you. But suffice to say: no matter how clean your house, no matter how bug free it is, if your neighbor fumigates her house, and does so without even telling you, you’re gonna have visitors. I think someone may have flattened that neighbor’s tires. Maybe.

Anyway. I saw the roach, the roach saw me. And then it kept crawling. I watched it.

And I watched it.

And then it turned around, winked at me, and disappeared.

Naturally, I did this against the window.

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The stages of heebie jeebies:

Mental panic.

Where did it go? That roach is on me!

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Where did it go? That roach is in my shoe. [Scratches foot.]

[10 second pause] What is that feeling? Is that a tingling? That roach is in my hair!

Person inside my head: Bend over and shake it out! Wait, no! Don’t bend over; your head will be closer to the bag! But never mind; it’s already on your sweater.

[SMACKS SELF]

SAVE. ME. IDRIS ELBA.

<end scene>

It’s silly. I know that. You don’t have to tell me that. I know. [Scratches foot]. So, I acted like the adult I am. I come into work. I sit down my bags. [SMACKS THE OTHER ARM WHERE I FEEL IT CRAWLING!] And then I promptly empty and shake out each one. Lunch bag. Bag with book, shoes, and random papers, probably some lotion. Purse.

Nothing. See? Crisis averted.

[10 minutes pass]

You guys! I am psychic. Don’t make that face at me; it’s true. I don’t know when it happened, but today it showed itself.

Let me explain again.

I manifested that bug. Ten minutes after convincing myself it was silly to think the bug had somehow, some way, gotten itself from the exterior of a gym bag in the aisle, across the person beside me, and onto me or into one of my bags, THE SMALL BROWN ROACH CRAWLED ACROSS MY DESK, STOPPED, AND LOOKED AT ME.

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And I said, “Well look at that. I’m not crazy after all.” I’m also not letting a roach crawl across my desk — WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU? I smashed that bitch with my shoe, then cleaned my shoe bottom with a Clorox wipe. I’ve been scratching ever since because surely there are others, hiding, just waiting for their chance to find a new, warm home. There’s never just one roach. It’s how they’ve survived this long on Earth. The roach buddy system.

But! Imagine if I could use this new-found ability to manifest useful things like money, shoe inserts, and unlimited Utz sour cream and onion rippled chips on demand. It’s all about the law of attraction. I didn’t WANT to attract that bug, but I did. I WANT to have chips appear. All it takes is concentration. Apparently. And maybe hysteria. And a dirty ass gym bag.

I am so gonna be rich.

[Feels something on back, smacks self. Again.]

The Fucket List

Listen. I’m old enough now to realize there are simply some things I will never do. Rather than a bucket list, things to do before I die, here’s my fucket list: things I’m never likely gonna do. Make no mistake, though. These are things I probably at one point really wanted rather than stuff I would never consider.

So, following in my friend Kerstin’s blogsteps from earlier this year, fucket (her list was more along the lines of things she will continue to do, because fucket. My list is, um, kinda different):

1. I will never be a Rockette.
2. I will never win the Pulizter prize for musical composition.
3. I will never be president.
4. I will never be a law professor.
5. I will never have four children.
6. I will never be a Hollywood actress.
7. I will never be a trapeze artist in a circus.
8. I will never dance onstage with George Clinton.
9. I will never be an astronaut.
10. I will never be a surgeon.
11. I will never swim with dolphins AS MY SOURCE OF INCOME.
12. I will never write a white paper on the systemic risk of continued lack of financial regulatory reform. (WHAT?)
13. I will never be in charge of a grocery store’s layout.
14. I will never be an official taste tester of new alcoholic mixed drinks AS MY SOURCE OF INCOME. (At home doesn’t count. I already have that job there.)
15. I will never sing backup for Isaac Hayes.

I could think of more, I’m sure. But why? You’re probably still wondering why I can’t make #1 come true.