"I found a broken link on your website. Wanna see?"
I love texts. Texts! Texts will set you free.
Also maybe I’m trying to break out of my shell. Like a chicken except it’s been three weeks and still all you can see is the beak and is that thing even ALIVE?
Went to Bean’s first grade classroom this morning for our monthly Parent Visit Day.
I wouldn’t say I had a complete meltdown exactly. But I did duck out of the classroom because all the moving little blurs of bodies and chirping and singing and lowing of voices was A LOT and I suddenly realized i was going to have torrential headache in about five minutes if I didn’t drink as much water as possible.
So I found the water fountain; drank and drank and drank. Considered that I’d taken a pill - one of those pills that’s supposed to dampen anxiety - and it hadn’t exactly worked. [ETA: I qualify that because I managed not to cry at all while inside the school, but only barely.]
Bean and I have been running each other ragged the last couple of weeks. I’ve cried out of frustration about once a day.
He just left to spend the weekend at a friend’s house and my sense of relief is palpable, like I just got off the chain gang.
By Sunday morning, I’ll be missing him like crazy and waiting impatiently for him to get home. That will feel nice.
There was a conversation going around the other day about what constitutes grownuphood. For me, it’s knowing that saying the above does not make me a monster.
(Grownuphood is other things too, like realizing that a year is not a long time.)
Him: Hey, M! Did you hear there’s a new Jay-Z album out?
Him: What, you don’t like the greatest rapper alive?
Him: Oh, I know! You’re a Tupac kind of girl. You like the greatest rapper… who is DEAD.
Me: Well. I *do* like Tupac. And not just because of his eyelashes. Besides, he’s not dead. He’s alive and well and living under an assumed name in Florence, Italy. Last I heard he married Niccolò Machiavelli’s great great great great granddaughter.
Him: … [open-mouthed, horrified]
Me: Dude. Kidding?
Him: Oh. So. So you wanna hear the new Jay-Z album or what?
I love how The Great Santini calls his kids "sportsfans", even when he’s only talking to one of them.
I also worked full-time. The hours I spent in the office I was strung out on this “supplement” from GNC called Ripped Fuel. It had many ingredients, but for the purposes of this anecdote the primary one was ephedra. I also drank a lot of iced coffee.
It sounds awful and I’d beat Bean if he did something like that, but I was focused, efficient and had plenty of energy. I was also mostly happy.
Until the beginning of September, when instead of driving to Ithaca for my seventh semester of college, I flew to Paris, where I spent the first half of senior year.
You don’t want to know about me and packing. I started early. I packed for six weeks. One night, shortly after I got my tongue pierced, I was in my bedroom, sorting through a pile of jeans and thinking about Sisyphus. For once, I wasn’t high. I was trying to let my tongue heal. And my mom was hovering. She was hovering so low that she got all aggressive, confronting me about being stoned. She wanted me to know that it was pretty sad, she thought, that I had to smoke “pot” or I couldn’t stand to pack. Meanwhile, it was the first time in months I’d been totally straight while talking to her.
I laughed in her face, which didn’t help my case.
There is no consensus among scholars regarding Cleopatra’s ethnicity. Did she have Greek (Ptolemaic) ancestors? Yes. Was she pure, unadulterated Greek? Probably not. Do we have reliable, contemporary descriptions of her physical appearance? No. All we know for sure is that she was considered beautiful. Do we understand exactly how the ancient world delineated races? No. Was the National Geographic article speculative? Yes. Will we ever know for certain what she looked like? No. Barring the invention of a time machine, that knowledge is as lost as Alexandria’s library.
Archaeology is littered with the corpses of long-held sureties that were later proved incorrect. Whether or not Cleopatra was black is besides the point. The point is that she could have been, and if that offends you, you’re a bigot who should read a book or four.
Growing up I had this friend, who was fun (she had a pool), but terribly high-maintenance. Always mad at me about something. And her parents were raging bigots.
I think we were in college when the National Geographic Cleopatra issue came out. The one where the cover was the profile of a gorgeous, regal African woman. I think it was computer generated, an artist’s rendering of what scholars were now saying Cleopatra might have looked like. She resembled that famous bust of Nefertiti, but made flesh. And black. Inky black. Like she was supposed to be.
Like she was supposed to be. That’s the thought when I saw black Cleopatra on my friend’s parents’ kitchen table.
My friend’s mother’s reaction was precisely the opposite. She was horrified. She bellowed,
"Cleopatra? BLACK? What kind of crazy cockknocker thought up this bullshit?"
(I’m paraphrasing, although I’m pretty sure she used the word “cockknocker”. It was her all-purpose insult of choice.)
I knew I wasn’t going to change her mind. I had neither the desire nor the ability to truly enlighten her. But I had to respond somehow. So I looked her right in the eye and said, slowly and with exaggerated enunciation,
"Egypt. Is. In. Africa."
"I came over," she explained, "because I saw your little boy outside. In your backyard. Just a minute ago. And I wanted you to know. That I also saw a bear."
"In my backyard?"
"In your backyard. Just a few minutes before I saw your little boy out there. I thought I should make sure you knew. About the bear."
"Well. OK. Yeah. Wow. Well. Um. Thank you!"
She smiled and turned away.
I immediately went downstairs and repeated the conversation to my mom. She was dubious.
"A bear? Really? I don’t know."
"You don’t know? What does that even mean, Mom?"
"It means I’m not sure we really need to worry about it. Bears prefer to avoid people. So let’s not overreact."
"You have got to be fucking kidding me," I hissed at her, quietly, so Bean and his friend wouldn’t hear me swearing.
I stomped up the stairs to the kitchen. Turned, shouted down at her, over my shoulder,
"You know what this means? This means THE BEARORRISTS HAVE WON."
I’m much better at responding to compliments than I used to be. So much so that I don’t really want to write about it,
partly because I can’t express it any better than this, and also because my current healthiness about it is still new enough that I don’t want to breathe on it because it might fall down. Because I made it out of toothpicks and didn’t use any glue.
I will say this: For a very long time I was the smart-and-kind-of-fat-and-maybe-a-bit-cute-but-mostly-just-smart girl, and that was fine with me. It was an identity I purposely cultivated. I poured a lot of energy into being smart. I was proud of it.
And then later, much later, I grew up and realized that I had never been ugly, and that I looked better at 29 than at 19. At the time I was living in a country with very different standards of beauty. But, more than anything, I think I started smiling, which literally made me look like a different person.
So when people compliment my physical appearance, I smile and thank them, and silently wonder to myself if they don’t think I’m smart too, dammit.
It’s funny how a big part of why I came back last year was I wanted my child to be “American”. I know that’s a problematic construct to begin with and I also know that it’s not like I can control him like that. Because kids are organic little monsters with their very own nature, that can perhaps be cultivated but never directed.
What I meant when I said that I wanted him to be American was that I wanted him to be like me. I didn’t figure this out until I got flamed by that guy who didn’t like the way I talked about Grenada’s schools. I was using that as an excuse. Because the schools there are just like the schools here, in that most of them suck and a handful are pretty good. You know? I’m an elitist. I never went to public school. I was a teacher’s kid, so I’m not as spoiled as that makes me sound, but whatever. Tangential.
What actually bugged me about the prospect of Bean growing up and being educated in the Caribbean was that he wouldn’t learn “our” geography or history and he’d be totally unfamiliar with entities like Target and Ruby Tuesday’s. Netflix and thirteen varieties of diet Coke. I wanted him to sound like me. To have my accent and my slang. I wanted him to identify as like me, rather than as other than me. But right now? Gawd. Get us out of this place. We’ll come back in 20 years, when Glenn Beck is off the air.
Do I feel good about burying my head in the sand and running away from what I feel is a potentially toxic environment for my child? No, just lucky. Not everyone has that opportunity.
Do I abdicate my responsibility as an informed citizen? Am I going to stop paying attention to the world while I’m hiding in the tropics waiting for American political extremism to take it down a thousand? No. I will not. I’ll still be the same person, doing and saying the same things. I’ll still be trashtalking my dad because he thinks Rush Limbaugh is a scholar and Sean Hannity is a saint. I’ll just be doing it from the equator.