Despite the fact that she has dresses for every occasion, instructing my daughter to go pick out a dress to wear leads her to one of two conclusions:
I’m going to church.
I’m going to the Met Gala.
A dress means going out stepping; it does not mean an easy breezy alternative to shorts on a typical weekday morning.
“But my friends will ask me why I’m wearing a dress.”
I immediately felt that familiar tightening in the face and chest. Quite frankly, I was caught off guard by it as it was a feeling I hadn’t felt so acutely since her mother and I were dating.
For those who don’t know, I tend to be a rational and level-headed person when it comes to matters of offense or personal slight–except when it comes to my wife. Without putting too fine a point on it, I’d say it like this: if I feel as thought you’ve disrespected or hurt my wife, I mentally put you in one of those General Zod prison windows and banish you to the outer reaches of deep space never to return. It’s not like my wife needs any particular defending; she quite adept at defending herself. Still, it’s one of my bugaboos. The reasons for this are myriad and complicated and probably deserve a writing at length of their own, but in the short term, understand that it is one of my many quirks.
Anyway, as I rifled through the hangers, I felt that feeling and immediately jumped to conclusions: Are the kids at school being mean? What are they saying? Are they being nice? WHY AREN’T THE TEACHERS ON TOP OF THIS?
See, my daughter’s at the age where the fine line between a frank lack of pretense and cruelty begins to blur. As a parent, I’ve become increasingly aware of the ways in which Juice can get hurt despite my best efforts as guardian and protector. She reassured me that the kids are actually always very complimentary of her dresses. While relieved in the short term, I also knew my desire to protect and defend was deeper than wraps.
In a few weeks, my daughter will begin attending nursery school at the school at which I’ll be teaching in the fall. From the outside, it has all the trappings of an upgrade–better facilities, more resources and more convenient as I’m able to walk across campus to attend to her if need be. When my wife and I enrolled her, it seemed like a no-brainer: This is better for her. This is in her best interest.
But that’s a little too easy to be objectively true. There are elements that are better, but before my daughter moved on up to the east side, she was in a daycare community that makes up for lack of resources in investment in their students. They stress discipline and good cheer and sing songs and learn about nature. They do not half-step. While it does have a paid staff, there are people that volunteer there forty hours a week. Forty. Whipped up in the parental frenzy of “better,” I find myself suddenly more concerned about what that really means.
This ain’t meant to disparage her new school; I wouldn’t have enrolled her if I didn’t think it was worthy of her time. It’s just that, as I approach a new career in education, I find myself increasingly sensitive to notions of education, academic and cultural. At my daughter’s former school, she could walk the halls and see many students who looked like her. In the fall this won’t be the case. She could also walk the halls and see teachers who looked like her and have known members of her both sides of her family for going on sixty years. In the fall, this won’t be the case.
In doing our best, parents project their hopes and dreams onto their kids. We also project our fears and our burdens. As I slid by dress after dress on a typical day that will soon no longer be typical, I felt my heart ache.
Today, it’s dresses. What of September? She’s going to be one of the only ones.
Before I was a parent and had the audacity to swear about what I would never subject my kids to, being one of the few Black kids in a kid-oriented environment was high on the list. Once I did become a parent, I found the very best way to alleviate those concerns was to move back to Rhode Island and become the artistic director of a theater company. Obviously.
I never wanted to my kids to feel the pain of being told they talk like a white boy or girl; that they weren’t really Black; to be the palatable alternative to the prejudiced night terrors of people who are smugly convinced that, outside of these acceptable Pitts-Wiley alternatives, all Black people were pearl-clutchingly identical.
Of course, her sense of identity and culture was and is nurtured by the family we moved back to Rhode Island to be closer to and her extended family at the theater. That’s been a continual blessing and one of which I have little regret. And, of course, she’s not being plucked from one positive environment and dropped into a hostile or unfriendly environment. Her grandfather was a victim of bussing as a child; this is not that.
Still, I brace myself for the day that the concerns are not about dresses.
I cringe at the thought of her wondering why she’s in the foxhole without her old friends. I cringe at the thought of her forgetting her old friends. Having helped to give her the foundation of her identity, I fear I’m leaving her to fend for herself and fight my old fights, the silent and lonely ones that only those who’ve fought them understand.
I did it for her betterment. I do it for her betterment. I’m just not sure I’m right.
Despite having imported my Livejournal to this blog, every now and again I’m compelled to check out the halcyon days of yore; days where I used twelve words when seven would do and generally kept it real about what was going on in the life of a collegian recently returned from sabbatical. I didn’t know dick about making a blog visually compelling; in fact, it was months before I figured out how to embed pictures or hyperlinks into text. HTML? Forget about it. I learned how to do the most basic of the basic just last year. All I knew how to do was type. There was a purity in my ignorance that I’m almost covetous of now. I just wrote and pressed ‘post’ and some friends would read it and some friends would like it. It didn’t get anymore complicated than that. Self-serving as it was, I talked about myself and things that interested me. I did it because I like to talk. I put it out there because I hoped people would vibe with it. (Sidebar: Anyone who writes outside of a private journal and says that the sense of an audience doesn’t affect their writing is a prick. It’s certainly foolish to claim that every writer caters to an audience, but I defy the writer who “just writes” and “just happens to leave it around for people to consume”).
Long paragraphs, zero pictures, song lyric titles. If that wasn’t enough, I’d leave to random thoughts at the end of an entry, lest someone be starved for my thoughts on ‘Space Age Pimpin’ (still the greatest rap slow jam in history if you as me). These were the days when I told a version of the truth that was either the real McCoy or close to it; watering down out of concern for public image mattered little then. Sure, I had my fair share of “wow, he went there” material, but I was no one’s Hunter S. If you had to ask me, I’d say it was all in the delivery.
Then, one day, I blinked.
I became aware of the audience; the stakes for who could get hurt or how I could hurt myself became palpable. I got safer and safer. Was I a better writer? I think so, but there was certainly some piss and vinegar missing. I started thinking about what I was going to write; thinking about how to make it really cook. I was thinking about the reading experience rather than just saying “fuck it” and letting it rip. I forgot how to write freely.
Not too long ago, a friend asked if I’d kept a repository of my old AIM away messages, which were replete with salt being thrown on skinny girls. (Why the skinny girl hate? Because, despite the fact I have little against the skinny in actuality, I felt it necessary that someone tell them they’re not thaaat tight). Anyway, I said I didn’t, nor did I remember many of messages. My friend lamented the fact that I had and quipped that they’d make for a great book. I agreed, but as I saw the pages of my skinny girl hate book flutter away, I was struck that the thought had even crossed my mind at all. Yes; a bit more maturity certainly (hopefully) gives you a better sense of perspective. Cherishing memories is something that seems to grow in importance with each passing day. Still, the whole thought process seemed rather sad to the writer I used to be. Hating on skinny girls amused me at that moment. Nothing more or less. Perhaps I should have seeing as I fell into the trap of dispassionate perspective anyway.
There’s so much more texture to my life now, yet as I scroll through the pages of my old blog, I find myself saddened by what I lost and troubled that I might never find it again.
Penultimate Thought: While I enjoy ‘The Best Man’, I can’t help but get hung up on this point: Wasn’t shit gonna go down either way between Taye Diggs and Morris Chestnutt? I mean, dude was gonna read the book eventually, right?
Final Thought: Skinny girls are like drinking out of a colander: Useless.
INT. — DAY– D’ANGELO’S
Jon and The Feath are enjoying delectable submarine sandwiches while Juice lightly drools on herself in her car seat. Having finished her 100% real lobster roll, The Feath leans back in her chair and stretches, sated and content. Jon looks across the table at her and shakes his head.
The Feath: What?
Jon: Nothing. Just…your boobs look HUGE.
The Feath: Yeah?
Jon: I mean, the shirt helps, but they’re look hefty.
The Feath: Right.
Jon: Wanna hear something really sad? Just now I was looking at them all big and thought: “Man, her boobs look big. Maybe she needs to pump.”
The Feath squeezes her boobs to see if this is true. It is not.
The Feath: …You didn’t wanna motorboatin’ ‘em?
Jon: Nope. I’m washed up.
INT. — NIGHT – THE LIVING ROOM
After a long day and dinner with Jon’s parents, Jon, The Feath and Juice are sitting on the couch winding down.
Jon is tagging long-overdue wedding photos and The Feath is reveling in the glory of successfully settling Juice, who’d had a bout of the grumpies due to a fit of gas post-feeding.
With Juice calm, The Feath looks at the fruit of her loins, caressing what many have noted to be a perfectly-shaped head.
The Feath: (Smilingly lovingly) Her head is just so…throwable. Like a little duckpin ball.
Did Yours Truly pull off a three-peat? My goodness!
Book of Odds: Swearing In
As a lover of language, I have rarely deleted a good expletive when the circumstance has allowed. (Read: I have home training and I don’t just go swearing any old place. I mean, do you know my mother?)
According to The Feath, who is less curse-friendly than I, my use of foul language is melodious; it has a rhythm and a tempo smooth enough to be missed in the flow of conversation. “You,” she says, “are no John Malkovich.”
That makes sense. My biggest influences in that regard weren’t as interested in the percussive use of a blue note; rather, there was a melodious improvisational feel that made the words seem like cool linguistic accents rather than utterances that would get you in trouble. As I grew up, my parents made it clear that the language Richard Pryor used was not to be flung freely about their house, but they didn’t go so far as to demonize it. How could they? Some of the playwrights and poets they respected most have been known to use language that would make a sailor blush.
Check out the rest at Book of Odds
Pitts Think: J Day + 24: Apparently, She’s Not a Duke Fan
Someone was very excited about the USA-Ghana World Cup match and saw a good opportunity to share her thoughts on Blue Devils Nation.
Check out the massacre at Pitts Think.
Might try to get up the Convos that I’d threatened to do last week and neglected to do because I’m me.
And with that, I’m off to attempt to organize my professional and personal life. Until next week…Huzzah!
INT. — NIGHT — JON’S PARENTS’ HOUSE
Jon and The Feath are at the kitchen table with papers strewn all about. Their wedding is a week away and there are still many things to do for what they hope will be a special weekend for all involved.
Having battled over the guest list and the seating chart, the pair have turned their attention to the reception music. Music holds a very special place in their hearts. It was music that brought them together in the first place.
Unlike the other phases of planning, the music selection process is going fairly well. All the dances have, for the most part, been accounted for. Now, their brains are racked in pursuit of an entrance song.
Jon makes the following suggestion
The Feath: I mean, it’s alright. It’s just–
Jon: That’s the smooth shit! I wanna come out to something kinda slick but, you know, endearing.
The Feath: Uh, I mean I like the song, but I’m not sure it’s a wedding song, ya know?
The song begins to wind down, a winding down that includes Bootsy speaking in the end, imploring the woman in question to believe that he’s sincere, sincere in a way only Bootsy Collins knows how.
The Feath: …Did he just say “you can see me coming, coming all over you”?
Jon: Yeah, but we can fade that part out.
The Feath gives Jon a blank stare from across the table.
Jon: So…how about Willie Hutch?
Back for a record-breaking second installment!
The Re-Education of JPW: The Untouchables
The first day I got back from daddy leave was my last day working for The Root. Having done my morning posts, I got a curious email which evolved into a “we’re going a different direction” phone call. For whatever reason, I wasn’t mad when I got the word; fifteen seconds into unemployment, I knew there wasn’t any time for that. Really, the hardest part was having Juice there as an unwitting witness. I was on the day shift that morning and she interrupted the phone call with a cry of hunger. My former boss asked if that was the baby. I answered yes, momentarily puzzled as to who else he thought it might be.
Check out the rest on Book of Odds
Pitts Think: J Day +16 ~ Giving Propers
One day, I hope my daughter thanks me for being the strongest, smartest, most handsomest daddy in the whole wide world…
Check out the rest on Pitts Think
The Buzz Morning Headlines: 6.21.10
Busy week coming up. Should be able to bang out a few Conversations, which I anticipate will be rather amusing. Stay up.