Thursday, August 25, 2011

T-3: Random Days are My Fave!

It's nocturnal, like me.

I can already feel the gossamer memories of the day fading. I type 80 wpm, people speak 120-160 wpm and I'm quite sure inner dialogue is at least twice that. So much gets lost, but then something suddenly reminds you, scents are particularly evocative. But so are photographs, one of the many reasons I love them.

10:00 am - Food Bank
So this guy at work has been on me like white on rice since my first hour. He came up and called me "Miss Lady." Since that isn't my name, I didn't answer.

"Oh, so you're bourgie."

Here we go. It's like clockwork. This only happens with African American men, I'm sorry to say. As best as I can understand it, they assume I'm black, approach me in an overly-familiar manner that I find rude and then insult me in some way for not responding as if it were the height of charm. To me, this is largely a cultural issue. Since I'm assumed to be from the same "culture," I'm seen as snobby when I find this (as yet) unearned familiarity rude and fail to respond in a positive manner. I can't reprogram myself to feel differently about this sort of approach any more than I can cease being a big old nerd long enough to keep up with slang (which also elicits similar accusations of snobbery or "trying to be white").

It really highlights the absurdity of the American addiction to race. If I were of 100% African extraction, well, I probably wouldn't be from this country, since the vast majority of "blacks" here have some to nearly all European ancestry (last I checked the figures, about 10% of "whites" are part African, thanks to ancestors who secretly passed for white). But let's say I was exactly as black as this guy. Does that mean we're the same? That there are no regional, linguistic, cultural, educational, political, familial or individual differences between us? Obviously not.

Before I go on, a couple of things...when I describe myself as biracial, which is factual inasmuch as this country recognizes the humanly-constructed, yet biologically meaningless (or else I'd be a scientific impossibility), concept of race, most of the time, black people are offended. I understand, it's a vestige of slavery to think those with lighter skin and other mixed features are treated preferably by whites and thus think they are better than those with darker skin. I've been receiving hate mail to that effect for decades. However, as the product of 2 people's choice, rather than an owner's dominance over his property, there are vast differences.

Also, I don't describe myself as "white," although it's about 55-60% true (and 0% percent accepted), whereas it would be 100% accepted if I referred to myself as "black," about 35-40% true. I describe myself as "biracial," always have. That's not a rejection of black ancestry, but a recognition of 95-100% truth (5% represents the distinct possibility that I'm actually the full human race trifecta).

Moreover, as apparently violates the civil rights of rich, white people, I have been known to think I'm as good as, if not better, smarter and more important than them. Hate me, if you must, but recognize this: my confidence, emanating from within the most hated and constantly derided body in American history and popular culture, is nothing short of a miracle. Personally, I believe rich, white people need a lot more exposure to people who look like me, but refuse to act stupid or inferior as a social lubricant in the same manner all-too many women do to be liked by men. Progress is not made by anyone playing small or playing at all. While downplaying one's intelligence is, unfortunately, often expedient and useful for the individual, it only perpetuates gender and racial disparity. That is no way to thank those who came before you, fighting and often dying to give you freedom and unprecedented opportunity. Nor is it the legacy one should aspire to leave future generations. So I flatly refuse. Actually, I don't refuse so much as I am just not able to be fake.

It's only been since the Clinton administration that there have even been either multi-racial check boxes or the option to check more than one box. Prior to that, I checked three boxes (white/Caucasian(itself inaccurate), black/AA and Native American which, while only rumored in my black family, seems evident in my eyes, cheekbones and the inordinate number of times I'm mistaken for a Latina or someone insists I'm part Chinese). Second Bestie recently told me that she remembers that, at 15, I often drew my own box. She said it was a profound idea and struck her so that she never forgot.

The absurdity, at least in part, is that only Americans see me as black. I've been in the United States for nearly 40 years and I'm TOLD I'm black with bizarre regularity. I was in Paris for 12 hours and the two Frenchmen I met at the Eiffel Tower one white and one black -- ASKED me, "Vous-etez metisse, oui?" over dinner in Montparnasse. A few days later, in Manchester, for reasons I don't recall all these years later, I said to my friend's boyfriend that I was biracial or that X parent is white. His response was something a long the lines of "I know," "obviously" or "of course."

Back in my own country, other Americans completely overlook my brown (not black) eyes, Cockney nose and other features carbon copied from my mother and see only my skin and hair. Even I'm just learning, at nearly 40, that the latter is not entirely afro in texture. It's everything from bone straight to kinky coils, with large, loopy curls and mostly tightly waved strands. Funny what you learn when you shave your head and get an intimate knowledge of your own hair in its natural and lightly processed states. This makes sense, as my mother has wavy hair.

I've been told I'm not biracial because I "look black." When pressed, the person will cite my skin, eye or hair color, my nose and even the size of my derriere. My skin, on a continuum between that of my parents, is far closer to that of my white parent, who also gave me my brown eyes, nose and build. If a person is only biracial if they have pale skin, light and straight to loosely curled hair, blue or green eyes -- then are white people with dark hair, eyes and junk in the trunk not white? My cousins, who are half white and half Filipino, are often mistaken for being Mexican. Does that make it so?

In America, my skin tone is seen as if it is identical to that of the darkest person of African decent. Although this entirely defies logic and fact, this is what Americans learn. They also learn to disregard 5,000 years of Judeo (and later Christian) matrilineal descent and label bi or multi-racial people with even "One Drop" of African "blood" as black, regardless of the remainder or actual compositions of their ancestry. More importantly, it denies at least one person who raised them, who taught them, who loved them. Worst of all, it denies everyone -- black, white, Asian or some combination thereof -- that most fundamental human right: self-definition.

On an almost daily basis, someone announces to me, apropos of nothing, "You're black." I can't think of any time I've gone up to someone, completely ignored whatever they were talking about and informed them, "You're Asian!" (You thought I was going to say "white," didn't you? We'll never transcend the black-white binary like that).

Certainly, I've written about this many times over the years. I wasn't given this heritage and my writing ability for nothing. There has been incredible progress, the fact that we have a biracial President is only the most prominent. But the fact that he is only referred to by the race of his mostly absent father, indicates we have much further to go.

3:00 pm - food bank
The tension mounted most of the day, particularly after he called me "a man hater," when I, once again, was not charmed by his incessant personal questions on everything but my weight and net worth, or the gratuitous familiarity. It doesn't help that this dude is a mumbler. Even without the bizarre pet names, half the time I didn't hear him until mid-sentence.

Then, a funny thing happened. He called me "Miss Lady" again. I ignored him again (to be fair, the first time, I did tell him my name). Another guy had been sent from another area in the warehouse to work with us. He turned to the first guy and said, "Ask her name and stop calling her 'Miss Lady.' What's wrong with you?"

So he asked my name and he began to use it. He talked to me not like one black person to another, a black person to a biracial person or even a man to a woman. He just talked to me like one person to another. That, for me is always the key to healthy human interactions. Yes, it takes more time. You can't take a short cut and say to yourself, "This person is X, so I will treat them like an X." It requires effort, but only a little, to open your mind and heart to another human being and, rather than setting out to define them, letting them tell you who they are, bit by bit.

Of course, it's absurd that he only listened when another man told him how to talk to me, instead of when I did. One step at a time.

5:00 pm - Mom Advice
I went to a friend's house to pick up gift bags for the kids at my party, since she had a few left over from the party she threw for her son and daughter a few months ago. I was expecting the flat, thin, plastic bags you often see and concerned some of the items would be too heavy or too bulky. They were more like small versions of the paper gift bags with sturdy handles that one might put a birthday or baby present in. Plus, they're in an assortment of colors.

I also picked her brain about components for the bags and other details about the day. She also threw in some streamers and will bring some vegetarian proteins for the BBQ.

Her older daughter, who is 6, asked me how old I'll be on my birthday. When I told her, she said, "Wow! You're old! Mommy's not old. Daddy's 35, that's OLD. But you're REALLY old!" My friend was a bit embarrassed, but I thought it was hilarious.

It just reminded me of what it was like to be 6. Everything was new to you and every year seemed very long. Birthdays seemed so far apart and Christmas felt like it would never come. If your parents mentioned something that would happen in a month, it sounded like forever.

Besides, it wasn't malicious.

About two and a half years ago, a woman who often threw herself at the man I was dating (and, alas, it went to his head), snidely referred to me as "40." It was hard for me to figure out the worst part of that -- the fact that someone with a Master's degree in statistics couldn't add 36 + 1, that a 31 year old woman thought 40 was an insult or her apparent delusion that 40 wasn't just around the corner. As my dad used to say, "Getting older sure beats the alternative!"

5:30 - 7:30 - Y
Arrived early before my aqua aerobics class and did some physical therapy exercises. The class was pretty full, but the lifeguards took out some lane dividers to give us some room. It was a fun class, with a lot of new people and lots of changes in the exercises to keep it interesting.

The Circuit City Ross

9:30 pm - Walgreen's
I went to pick up some additional items for the gift bags, since more people have responded. I said something to the cashier about hoping it was enough. "I wouldn't want one of the children to not get a bag, because their parent didn't RSVP," I said.

"Respond Soon Very...what does that mean?"

"It's actually in French, not English."

Then he tried again to make English words fit the letters.

"It stands for 'Respondez S'il Vouz Plait."

He tried once more to make the letters work in English, to no avail.

Just when I thought we might go around and around like that all night, he finished scanning all my coupons and handed me the bags. Merci beaucoup!

10:00 pm - Food4Less
I went to scope out some last minute prices. I need to plan the final shopping for my party, minus things friends have volunteered since I made my list.

An employee announced over the PA, "______ and ______, you need to finish zoning before you leave tonight." If you've never worked in retail, that means they need to finish restocking items that are in the wrong place or that customers decided not to buy or that were returned.

A few moments later came the reply, "Orale!"

As a Californian for about 30 of my 40 years, that brought back countless memories. I take back what I said earlier. I'm a Chicana!

I picked up a few things I thought I might forget later -- birthday candles, salt & pepper shakers, sprinkles for the cupcakes (funfetti - for wee ones who don't dig red velvet).

I didn't have many coupons, but I did score one deal. My mom wanted all-beef hot dogs, even if they were expensive. I'd planned on only turkey or chicken and smart dogs. I found a decent price on some Farmer John all beef hot dogs, $3 each. They scanned in at 2/$5. A few weeks ago, Second Bestie gave me a coupon for $5 of any Farmer John item and 2 $3 off 1 coupons for Moran's hamburger patties. I handed the $5 coupon to the woman at the service desk (for self-check out) and said, "I'm not sure if this one will work." I had a back up $1/1 from a Sunday coupon insert, but hadn't clipped 2 because I guess back then I couldn't imagine buying 2 packages of hot dogs. The $5/1 coupon worked, making the hot dogs FREE!

As I walked out, I realized I could have handed her the $1/1 coupon. At worst, it would not have worked. At best, I would have made $1 off of the hot dogs.

11:15 pm - home
I unpacked the day's purchases and sorted them into bags for their various functions in the ever-growing birthday party pile. I printed out some photos of myself from birth - age 10 (so far). They are mostly from my birthday parties, since we almost always take a photo with our cakes. But there are some others, particularly with my cousins when they visited post-Phillipines, pre-Hawai'i and the great years when my uncle was stationed at Camp Pendleton. where at least the last 3 generations of Jackson Marines were trained there, as well as my dad*.

At any rate, during that process, I found this photo. I believe it's from Knott's Berry Farm, back when the big attraction was that leaning/forced perspective house. Surely, this pic is worth 1,000 words...

...but here are a few. I vividly recall protesting wearing a dress at all. I mean, I loved me some Little House, both the book and tv versions, but that dress was wrong to me in every way. Not to mention the bonnet...and don't even get me started on the doll. After all, my Barbie wielded cocktail swords (don't worry, I made her a first aid kit). I even tried to appeal to basic logic. It was a Wanted poster. What kind of bandit(a) wears a bonnet and carries a doll?! I think I even tried to strike a last minute bargain of ditching the doll and throwing that sarape over myself. But noooooo!

11:58 pm - PureWow email
I'm archiving most list emails lately, having so much to do. I read this one, because the subject line referenced Google Earth as art. The main article, of course, was about an artist who uses it in her art, but it also mentioned this KFC logo, visible from Outer Space.

Although I'm sure I saw it before, tonight it reminded me of something entirely random. In the 5th or 6th grade, we went on a field trip to a taping of Diff'rent Strokes. This must have been in '82 or '83. I loved the show and my dad bought me a tube bed, like the one Arnold and Willis did. The trip was an incredibly big deal, since the show was, back then, known for being one of the most popular on TV, rather than as an object lesson in the tragic pitfalls of child stardom.

Before the show and during breaks in taping, the emcee explained the production process and took questions from the audience. Wish I could remember his name. He was a stand up comic and I saw him in bit parts on Diff'rent Strokes and other shows for years afterward. At one point, he spotted a man in the audience who he joked looked like Colonel Sanders.

We all turned around. Sure enough, the man stood up and he was the spitting image of Harlan Sanders, right down to his white linen suit and skinny black tie (an aside: what kind of tie is that? it's not a regular bow tie, nor a bolo). He said he was the Colonel's brother. I can't remember his name, but wouldn't it be fun if it was Marlon?

It was the episode in which Kimberly snuck into the bathroom and took a photo of Arnold's bare tush and won a photo contest for it. I'm just glad it wasn't the bicycle shop episode. I couldn't stand to see Mr. Carlson that way!

After the taping, a bunch of girls from school hung around the set, hoping to meet Todd Bridges. I wonder, given all that has transpired in the intervening decades, if anyone else today can remember or imagine how big a star Todd Bridges was then. I wasn't particularly a fan of his myself. I never did understand why girls always liked/dated older guys. More on that double standard another day.

A group of us and some poor, beleaguered teacher waited outside for the girls trying to catch a glimpse of him. Naturally, after maybe 15 minutes, Todd Bridges zoomed past us in a sports car.

* Contrary to popular assumption, Jackson is not a "black" or "slave" name, as I've been told countless times. My brother and I each took our same sex parent's surnames. That's one way to address patriarchy, rather than just repeating it because not to do so is "too hard" or "weird" or "we wouldn't feel like a family." With all the possible variations of family out there, I just don't buy it. We all know families whose members all have the same last name, but are adversaries or virtual strangers. I've seen more than a few families with 2 or 3 last names, due to blended families, adoption or fostering, where they couldn't be more lovingly attached. Indeed, an inspirationally close knit family I know have at least 5 different last name combinations between the parents and children.

1 comment:

  1. The fantastic verified design
    as the used version and causes the amount and power
    of a brushless web page and longevity Li-Po energy offer.
    CLICK here redcat racing
    Now with enough energy to launch top to platform
    and execute even more techniques at a much faster amount.