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Be Yourself --'Cause I Am

Be Yourself --'Cause I Am

We are all just trying to work it all out.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” Ralph Waldo Emerson said that. Ralph was so right.

I’m visiting my family in Germany right now. I haven’t been back home in quite some time. I woke up at 11 a.m. But keep in mind, that is six hours earlier on my body’s clock which is still operating according to Eastern Standard time. So now my extended family thinks I’m lazy. That quote immediately came to mind. Of course, where my mind went from there is going to amaze you…

“Do you ever feel like you are being pulled between two worlds?” I used to think, “I didn’t until you asked.” But I have to admit, I'm constantly being pulled in all sorts of different directions. My undergraduate classes that dealt with ethnic dilemmas had me questioning myself about a lot of issues. I actually wrote a poem here called "Ethnic Dilemmas 101" based on that experience. You should read it. (Shameless plug, in case you did not notice.) Those classes made me start to remember things in ways that I really had not thought of before. Although I had been going to DODEA schools (Department of Defense schools for military dependents overseas) since I was ten (when I received my first American ID card. Big moment there.), coming to the states at 17 was a bit of a culture shock. But, not in the way everyone assumed.

I started my life in a little town situated on the left bank of the Mein River with a wall still around it. I was the darkest little thing there. Ever heard the term meine kleine negerkissen said in that voice reserved for babies and puppies? It is actually a term of endearment in my mom’s family for me. Loosely translated: My little [insert politically inappropriate racial slur here] kiss. Before your feathers get ruffled, keep in mind that there was a popular little chocolate coated marshmallow treat called Negerkissen. Now, they call them Schokoküsse (Chocolate Kisses) for obvious reasons. They probably called them that when I was little, but I didn’t know any better. Here in the states, Keebler makes a similar cookie called Mallomars (they are not as big or good as the German ones). That in itself gives you an idea that I was always quite aware of being different. It was, however, the least indicator of such. There were harsher indicators. Kids were kids. I didn’t cry about it. I wasn’t above punching a boy in the lip for being mean. The adults were a different story though, sometimes. My mom was a fighter though. You did not mess with her baby. She never made me feel different. I was black and that was that. My dad was black, not literally present but black. That was that. I could really care less.

You know what my issue was when I was growing up? My hair. My mom didn’t know what to do with it and I just sort of wore it wild and curly for the longest. I was tender headed, so every day it was a major issue to just make it look decent. When I was little I liked to wear fake flowers in it. So, I wasn’t really ashamed of it. My mother was adamant about not letting people put their hands in my hair too. She would cuss you out. “Putting your hands in my baby’s hair. She isn’t a pet for you to touch or some type of toy for you to play with.” There was born one of my favorite phrases to this day: I'm not your toy. I will pull it out on some one in a minute. People try to touch my hair now. I can juke with the best of them.

Only when I went to school with more people of color did I see my hair as a major problem. “Girl, what is going on with your hair?” often confronted me. Suddenly, I felt noticeably different. I didn’t live on the military post either, which separated me a bit as well. When I was in 6th grade, I was gladly given my first hair straightener (and my last one) and went on base to get my hair done by this black hairdresser (originally from Chicago) every two weeks. Her name was Bertha (really Alberta, but they called her Bertha). She had a big butt too–no lie. Anyway, you couldn’t tell me anything. My hair was down my back, bone straight as they say. It was silky and swung when I walked. I discovered the head swing. You know that little flip thing that some girls do and it gets on your last damn nerve, it was that. It made me feel cute. I did a little child modeling for catalogs and stores in Frankfurt, where we had moved. Mind you, Frankfurt is like New York compared to where I used to live. You couldn’t tell my little behind anything. I started getting boobs around that time too. Well, these twin girls from Haiti lived around the corner from me. I played with them some. They taught me cuss words in French, I taught them cuss words in English. We had a huge (in that preteen state of mind) argument. One of them told me that I thought I was cute. I put my hand on my hip (because I loved it when Bertha did it) and said, “No, but you must think I am because you brought it up.” I walked off feeling like a boss. A couple of days later, equipped with an extra friend, those girls kicked my behind and cut my hair off. CUT MY HAIR PEOPLE! I was told very clearly that I was not cute and I was not white.

Lesson learned. My revenge is another story.

In my home, I was taught that pretty is as pretty does. My mother never put up with attitude or the mistreatment of others. She also made sure that I knew that pretty didn’t make you smart, everyone that says your pretty isn’t going to treat you right and brains was more important than tits&ass. She did not let anything slide. Being interracial was not an issue because there were more important issues, like eating and stuff. It was important to my mother that I love myself, because it was a hard lesson that she had to learn on her own.

I’ve been judged for being too white, too black, not white enough and not being black enough. I’ve had white girls hate me and black girls hate me. There have been a couple of Latina’s and Asians sprinkled all in there too. I’ve hated a few people for various reasons myself. Some of those reasons may or may not have been justifiable. I’ve had guys like me because my hair is naturally curly and I’m light skinned. I’ve had guys like me because I look exotic and have skin darker than theirs. I have had guys like me because they could care less about all of that, but that ass sure did look good to them and if I was sharing they would definitely have taken a piece.

On the other hand, I’ve had some love too. Lots of love. Even the loves that did not end well or work out because of timing were good. I’ve had love in so many ways from lovers and friends, I can’t even begin to describe all the ways I’ve been loved. They loved me inside and out. I never had to define myself for them. That love overshadows everything. They were my respite from all that mess. I still have love surrounding me now.

My point is, I don’t have time for all that other mess.

I have my moments. I have to admit that. I had to grow up too, adjust my thinking and learn some lessons as well. I have my own personal insecurities that I have to keep in check. I can be a real bitch when I want to. I’m not above using the black card and I’ll pull out the white one too if you are stupid enough to let me get what I want from you. Call my house and say I owe you some money and I'll start telling you how I can't speak English, in Vietnamese. I remember one time letting someone think I was from India. I’m not particularly proud of those moments, but “it is what it is”.

Sometimes it does not matter what I do, I’m going to be that triangular peg when the spot is for a square one. I’m cool with that. It doesn’t mean that I’m always going to be quiet about it, but I am cool with that. I don’t have it all figured out. I simply love myself. I have learned that I can’t let anyone dictate to me how I should be or how I should think. I don’t care who you are, where you are or what you have. If you are not treating me right, I’m not tolerating you. I won’t sit quietly and let other people be mistreated as well. I have been without in my life and I have had more than I deserved.

My mother did a good job. She’s still a bad chick at her age--with her blond head, blue eyed self. I want to be a bad chick one day too--with my own hair and my own eyes. I have a son and I have to constantly let him know that I can care less about how cute he is. He’s entering puberty and the girls are everywhere. I let him know, that means nothing. Those grey eyes, that curly hair and that half smile he does so well mean absolutely nothing. They may turn out to be his biggest curse at some point in his life--"especially if you don't listen to your mother and end up in prison with your pretty behind". The person you are inside, the way you think, your ability to reason on matters big or small, and your actions are what matters. That is what matters when you look at others too. If anyone tries to make an issue out of anything else, press that inner unfriend button and move the hell on. Don’t have time for that mess. I’ve had to move on plenty of times. This is most likely why I deal with ethnic dilemmas professionally. It is why I choose Ethnic Literature as my focus. This is why I teach. I can’t believe sometimes that I get paid to just read and talk, listen to others opinions about others and occasionally grade a paper.

Just the other week, I had a grown woman ask me, “So, what are you?’ When things like that come up, specifically from people that are supposed to be educators, I really enjoy myself. I just looked at her all innocent like (which by the way, I do well) and asked, “What do you mean?” Through all the double speak and back-tracking, I continued to look utterly confused. I do this until they put their foot in their mouth or drop it. Eventually they just uncover their own prejudices in some shape, form or fashion. That is, I do that when I’m in that mood. When I’m not in that mood (when I don't have time for all that), I just say “Buddhist”. And, I move on.

You know what though, I really am lazy. Wait till my family finds out that I plan on taking a nap later too. It "ain't" easy being me.

©AvrgBlkGrl, 2014. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, mechanical, electronic, or used in any other fashion without the express prior written permission of the owner. This manuscript is specifically written for Stories Space.
This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

Copyright © ©AvrgBlkGrl, 2013–2018. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, mechanical, electronic, or used in any other fashion without the express prior written permission of the owner. This manuscript is specifically written for Stories Space.

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