Last week, or maybe the week before, I stumbled across an article on Clutch Magazine. The article, written by Danielle Pointdujour, comically detailed the experience of a newly engaged friend of hers who spent the night at her parents’ house with her fiancé. Not surprisingly, since the two weren’t married yet, her parents had arranged for she and her man to sleep in separate bedrooms. But in the middle of the night, the love below started talking to her and she invited her man to her room for a midnight romp. Of course he obliges; and sure enough, just like something out of a cheesy romantic comedy, her mother walks in and sees the two of them mid-hump and freaks out.
The story was funny but even more hilarious was the comments section. Almost unanimously, everyone agreed that the author’s friend was trifilin’ and completely disrespectful for acting like that in her parents’ home. From the comments section, one could surmise that when it comes to black folk, having your boo sleep in another room, until you all are married is pretty much standard protocol. I know it certainly was in my house. When my sister first started dating her boyfriend, in college, he would come to visit her over the holidays. Not only did my parents not let he and my sister sleep in the same room, my father made him sleep at my aunt’s house. She lived ten minutes away. It was not a joke. Eventually, my mom was able to convince my dad to let my sister’s boyfriend stay the night; but the idea that his youngest daughter would be hunched up with some dude, under his roof was completely out of the question. And my sister understood that.
I don’t know about ya’ll, but from the time I was able to walk and talk, my parents started letting my sister and I know exactly what it was. Locking our bedroom doors was not permitted. “Don’t be locking these doors, these are my doors.” If we so happened to break something in a moment of rough housing, we were reminded just how much we didn’t own. “Don’t break anything because you don’t have any money to pay for it. None of this stuff in here is yours!” My father, who really wasn’t known for discipling with smart comments, even dropped this little piece of knowledge on us: “This is my house. I just let you live here.” Well dang.
As hard as it was to hear those reality checks, they certainly got the point across. Owning a home was the American dream and I know my parents put up with a lot of ish at work in order to make sure we kept it and that it was well maintained. It was and still is the sanctuary from all of the foolishness they encounter in the world. The place where what they say goes. Where their rules reign. That’s important to anyone, but particularly so for black folks, whose intelligence, capabilities and authority are constantly being questioned in the workforce and society at large. The house, the kingdom is an escape from all that, and it must be respected by anyone who sets foot on the premises. To this day, my dad still feels a way about Left Eye setting Andre Rison’s mansion on fire. “She burned down the man’s house Veronica, his home.”
Now, I’m not going to lie. There were times when I tried to rebel against the rules of the house. After my freshman year of college, when I came home for Christmas break, my sister and I stayed out til four in the morning chatting it up at a friend’s house. When we walked in our house, my father was on his way out the door for work. Needless to say, he wasn’t pleased. When he came home that evening, we got into an argument about acceptable curfews and how our coming in so late/early was disrespectful. I didn’t see the big deal. We weren’t out clubbing or drinking or with [straight] boys. We were at a friend’s house. What I failed to realize at the time, was that if I wanted to stay at my parents’ house during the college breaks, I needed to abide by their rules, or find somewhere else to stay. And if that meant being home before 4 in the morning, that was just one of the stipulations. And that’s what I think those commenters on Clutch were getting at. If you can’t control your hormones for a couple of days, stay at a hotel. We always have options.
Though there were times when I thought my parents’ measures were extreme, now that I have my own spot, I know exactly what they were talking about. I don’t like for my little apartment to serve as a bed and breakfast for just anybody. I’m very particular about who stays here. And when guests do come, I don’t want them traipsing the dirt and grime from the bottom of their shoes on my rug of many colors. When you work hard for something, not only are you going to take care of it, you’ll certainly want to make sure other people do the same. We all have our rules and if you’re going to invite or allow somebody to stay in your home, they’re just going to have to follow them…or get ta steppin’.
What rules did your parents have growing up? Were you allowed to sleep with your significant other in their house before you were married?