All Articles Tagged "growing up"
I should probably start by telling you that I’m guilty. I’m guilty of entertaining “friendships” with questionable women who display suspect behavior. Why? I’m not exactly sure, but I believe that part of it is due to my constant efforts to see the best in people. So much so that I tend to overlook behaviors that clearly indicate a person probably doesn’t have my best interest at heart.
I met my first frenemy in elementary school and it took her burning me several times in middle school before I finally woke up and realized that I’d better cut this girl off before she does the unimaginable, and of course, I’d have no one to blame but myself. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no fool. I was always fully aware of her shady behavior, but I was in my early teens and I frequently second guessed myself. I believe that’s the tricky thing about frenemies. They are not fans of the obvious, but instead, they’re crafty masters of subtlety and doctors of deception. A frenemy will almost never do something so blatantly obvious that they leave you walking away determined to never speak to them again. Oh no, that would be too easy. A frenemy would rather strike you soft enough to come across as playful, but hard enough to cause you to want to strike back. They commit shady deeds that are so illusive, they’re almost unidentifiable and often leave you asking yourself, “Did that just happen?” which eventually leads to “Maybe they didn’t mean it that way,” and somehow becomes, in many cases for me, “I’m probably overreacting.” And of course, the cycle continues. As subtle as they may be though, you can almost always count on a frenemy to eventually go overboard and hurt you in an irreversible way. It may come now, it may come later, but I’d bet my last dollar that it will come eventually.
It took me encountering people like this throughout high school and college before it dawned on me that entertaining frenemies was like playing Russian roulette. Dealing with sly and underhanded people may seem harmless while in your teens, but as I got older, I quickly learned that the stakes are higher once you enter adulthood because you have so much more to lose, which brings me to my latest revelation. Several years ago, I formed somewhat of a friendship with a woman who eventually began displaying frenemy-like behavior. It was like a full-time job to show myself as someone welcoming enough to carry on a friendship, but keeping enough distance between us so that she couldn’t burn me. Letting her know enough about me for us to get to know each other, but not enough that she could use any of the information she knows about me to hurt me. I would literally attempt to stay five steps ahead of her just to protect myself from the wrath of the frenemy that I knew would eventually come. Then one day I slowed down and asked myself, “Who the heck has time for this?” Who has time carry on a not-so-sincere friendship with a person you can’t even let your guard down around because you have apprehensions about their loyalty? Either you’re with me or you’re not, right? I mean really, what grown woman has time to play the frenemy game? It’s silly, time consuming and in the end, a snake will always be a snake. In that moment, I made up my mind that my genuine friendship is gift, my time is precious, and neither will be wasted on insincere people.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned since entering my twenties, it’s that real women don’t entertain frenemies. There are much better ways to spend your time, and with much better people.
Follow Jazmine on Twitter @jazminedenise.
Children of the ’80s and the ’90s should know all about “Clarissa Explains It All,” the show that was centered-around Clarissa Darling and all of her life happenings, including school, puberty, boys, and so on.. The show first aired on March 23, 1991 and ran until December 3, 1994, airing a total of 65 episodes. With the show having been off the air for almost 20 years, it’s definitely time for an update on the cast.
Mirror Photos, Duck Lips And Straight-Out-The-Shower Shots: Why Following My Niece On Social Media Was The Worst Idea Ever
Kids. They grow up so fast don’t they?
I can remember my niece as a tiny little thing. Toothy smile, long hair covered in balls and barrettes and things, a love for all things Barbie and an appreciation for dance. She grew up fast before my eyes and changed from a shy but happy young child with a bed covered in Build-A-Bears, to a quiet (when with family of course) young adult with a penchant for texting like crazy. Hell, during a family gathering, if you’re not looking, she’ll slip on her headphones and act like nobody else is around. Yep, she grew up fast all right.
But I didn’t really realize all of that until I started following her on Instagram. While Facebook has always been more about statuses and a few pictures here and there, same for Twitter, Instagram is all about photos, and the more photos she puts up, the more I want to pick up my phone, call my brother (her father) and say, “Uh, come get your child!” I’ve found on my homepage images of her in a towel straight out the shower, sports bra and tights shots, booty in the camera and hip all out to the side photos. Though 18 (she JUST turned 18), she’s been acting way too grown for me.
And if the half-dressed pictures weren’t enough, there are times when I can tell she’s doing the most to receive compliments from her followers. Male, female–whoever. She’ll post a picture with a crazy face and say that she knows she doesn’t look cute in it, but she wanted to take the photo anyway. In response, all of her young (and hell, who knows with Instagram. People can be 40-year-old trolls following you and you wouldn’t even know it) followers comment back saying she looks more than cute, that she’s fine, and so on and so forth (*shudders the thought*). And it was okay the first couple of times, but seeing as she posts about five photos a day in front of any mirror she can find (duck face included), it’s become a tad bit annoying. As quiet as she comes off face to face, she gets her Sasha Fierce on with her phone, talking crazy and reciting rap lyrics to her 500+ followers online. After weeks of watching all these shenanigans, I think I’m ready to help her bring that follower count down a bit.
But as sassy as she can be to my discomfort, in all honesty, she’s a more modern version of myself some years back when I let Facebook get the best of me as an 18-year-old. To this day, I can scroll through old photo albums of mine from freshman year of college to now and sometimes I have to shake my head at what I see. Not only was I being sassy like my niece (oh, but you would never catch me in my sports bra or in a towel trying to be seen), duck-lipping it up, throwing my hip out there, and showing off my curves in a swimsuit, but I was also cursing like a sailor while joking with friends about these pictures. I was young and silly, acting a fool and loving it. But years later I cringe at my clothes, my poses, my once proud expletives and my behavior as a whole. And honestly, when I think about my own juvenile behavior in the past, I can’t help but give my niece a pass. She’s doing the same over-the-top (but maybe to an extreme) stuff I was trying my hand at when Facebook ruled the world and Twitter was just starting to make waves.
While I might have to pull her to the side and let her know a few things, I can’t fault her for doing the same things damn near everybody was doing back in the day when they got their hands on camera phones and cameras with decent megapixels. Plus, her grades are high, her dreams are big and she hasn’t done anything yet to make me feel like I have to be worried about her doing more than spending too much on Jordans and catching a speeding ticket. It’s about maturity. She’s young, she’ll learn. And she’ll grow and do better–I hope. So I’ll deal with the questionable if not obnoxious photos for now. I just can’t help but long for the days of the little girl in the white princess dress with her Barbies as she continues to grow into a saucy young lady with a passion for mirror shots.
Just the other day, I wore red lipstick, for the first time. Actually it was the first lipstick I’d ever worn in my entire life. It was clammy between the purses of my lips, but I didn’t mind it. This notion made me completely ecstatic. To you, this may seem a bit superficial. However, for me, it’d been a long time coming.
I was afraid I’d be noticed with anything additional or too bright. I did not want to be noticed, I wasn’t ready to adorn myself with anything that prompted catcalls and stares.
The truth is…
I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin. In fact, for a few years, I’ve been wearing someone else’s. I get up every morning, pat on makeup, slip on my heels and borrow words for the day, words that I don’t recognize as my own. I even delve into habits that weren’t previously a portion of my idiosyncrasies: eyebrows, nails, and organization.
The truth is, I was a skater girl: A kick loving, curse slinging, and over analytical extrovert. I was a nerd (still am) with a zest for journaling, Harry Potter, romance, and drama.
High school and college stifled me. Girls in higher heels and upper echelon begged me for tact. They caressed the underlying notions that I’d never be good enough. Everyday, as I faced the mirror, I realized that I was an impostor.
I am a shell of my former self.
I’m 5’11, with size twelve feet, big hands, an awkward smile and a stomach that kind of spills. To the stores, I am TALL, LONG and find-it-online. To the bullies, I was Sasquatch goofy and nerd. To the men who failed to assess internal beauty parallel to external, I was “alright” or “okay.” To myself, I wasn’t deserving.
That’s where it starts, doesn’t it? With yourself?
I found it hard to take compliments. I often cringed at the utterance of beautiful or pretty directed towards me, suppressing the urge to look behind me and search for the woman they were truly talking about. Defense mechanisms were my forte:
1) In social settings, when the men are more adoring of your friends instead of you, twiddle with your phone. It shows you don’t care.
2) If anyone asks what’s wrong, nod and smile. Never let on too much. Insecurity is not attractive.
3) Stay clear of things you used to love to wear, before anyone pointed out their flaws. Bright colors, horizontal stripes and tighter things only emphasize your thickness.
4) Talk fast and quick. Perhaps if they know you are a celebrated poet, scholar and writer; your looks won’t matter too much.
Years ago, I had the opportunity to confront my insecurity. I stood on my first well-known stage surrounded by people who actually had requests. Fans of sorts. I could have dropped my bitter cloak there. I should’ve swallowed the attention whole and relished in the fact that I was a great writer, performer and someone who deserved everything.
Instead, I blacked out. I let a pretend confident spirit envelop me and tear the stage apart. A train car voice cascaded from my lips and took charge of her surroundings. No microphone needed, I’d placed my morale, in rhyme, on the ears of many. It was beautiful. However, the instant the clapping faded and I cascaded down the stage’s steps; I was hunch shouldered, smirk-never-smile and nervous-wreck, shell of me, all over again.
While cruising YouTube a while back I decided to watch Brandy’s “Put it Down” video. I was extremely impressed. Brandy looked good, her sound was fresh, and the video was very colorful (and that’s good for someone like me who likes to be entertained by vibrant colors). So it was a win all around the board.
However, when I read the comments, one person did say something that honestly was in the back of my mind. They agreed about how they liked the video as well, but were expecting something a little more mature from her seeing that she’s a grown woman and has a daughter in double digits. Though some people threw shade at the comment, citing how (I won’t say her name, because people are “over-saturated” by her) still dances after having her baby, and no one objects to it.
It did make me want to observe people and myself, as a mother, a little closer, and I have noticed that some parents do experience a little bit of a second wind after having a child. There’s a saying that “children keep you young,” but now that’s also being proved by science. An experiment by a Norwegian scientist along with Arizona State University put aging, elder, dementia and Alzheimer-ridden bees back in the role of caregiver, and found that within days the bees were back to their old vitalized selves, with a lowered rate of dementia and Alzheimer. What does this mean for humans? Well, bees and humans’ brains are very similar and have the same Prx6 protein in it and scientists are beginning to think that taking care of children is what keeps some parents young at heart for a few more years. (Caveat, please do not try to heal your family and friends who suffer from these diseases by letting them babysit your children. Further research is needed.)
So, this explains why I bump into nervous looking parents while we awkwardly walk around the junior’s department and exchange those lies we both mutter to each other in passing: “Yeah, well, sometime these jeans/shirts fit me better…”
But, when you look at the children/teens, it just seems as though they are at the complete opposite of the spectrum. They want to grow up too fast. Which was an argument that came out in the comment section of Keke Palmer’s “Dance Alone” video. We knew that this blossoming actress wasn’t going to stay a child forever, but people were concerned that she was trying too hard to prove that she was no longer a child and people should accept her as the 19 year old that she is. In all honesty, Keke was just the soundboard that people were using to object to what they’re observing in the general population: the younger generation growing up too fast. We see children and teens make unsound mistakes, hoping to prove their agency, while only making their caregivers look bad in the progress.
But, being in the entertainment business is different, and there’s pressure for the women to be seen as young and fresh, and the older teens to seem able and ready. Maybe it’s unfair to hold Brandy to this standard. Expect her to sit on a stool and single demurely about adult challenges, while “She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” grooves like nobodies business on stage (no hate, I’m a fan of both).
What does this all mean? One thing my mother is quick to say (while I occasionally bump into her in the Junior’s shoe department as well) is: “Age only tells you how long you’ve been on this Earth, that’s it.” But, I would like to encourage anyone who is under the age of 21, to please enjoy your youth. There is nothing to rush to as an adult. As my old pastor used to say: “The grass is always greener on the other side, until you go over, examine it, and find out that it’s astro-turf.” All of this is being typed by a woman in an off the shoulder Snoopy and Woodstock sweater…
Kendra Koger is wondering if “She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” needs a background dancer to do the robot awkwardly in her upcoming tour. If so, she can tweet her @kkoger.
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?
Sometimes I scroll back through my tweets and statuses, and I wonder if I’ll ever get the hang of 24/7 political correctness. Especially now, since I’m amidst what I have coined as “a personal renaissance,” or a “renewal of life, vigor; rebirth…” as Dictionary.com describes the word ‘renaissance.’
I learned that very little about me was politically correct years back when I was just 22-years-old. I didn’t even know my little renaissance was beginning as I decided to take the road less traveled and try out this new “mind of my own” I had been told about – the exact opposite of my homegirls at the time. I felt like a mindless drone, following in the shallow, Forever 21 shod footsteps of a few lost young women with no real character, only painted-on facades that came off in powder rooms. I was lost, following the lost.
I knew that at my core I wasn’t a “mean girl.” I knew I wasn’t a glam girl who wanted nothing more than to peruse fashion magazines and spend the bulk of my sad little work study checks on makeup and club wear. I knew that Rihanna and weaves and high heels didn’t fulfill me. And isn’t that always the way? We come to the realization of what/who we aren’t before we can get to the heart of who we are sometimes.
And the truth is… I had no clue. All I knew was that I was different and I was sick of following. Pretty soon everyone knew it. I was 22. An age that at 16 I longed to reach, thinking I would have it all together by then. Surely, I would have a topnotch salary-paying job lined up by the age of 22, my own place, and a fairy tale romance with a good man who would surely marry me by at least 26.
Why did I want those things? Was it because deep down that’s what I truly believed my path to be? Or was it because between the lines of my favorite television shows and in the sharpness of some distant auntie’s questioning about my life’s timeline, that’s what I was being TOLD I was supposed to want?
What I didn’t realize at 22-years-old was that my 20s weren’t meant for patterning my life after what looks good in other’s lives or “getting it all together.” MY 20s were meant for figuring SOME of it out, getting to know me and my passions and purpose. I was figuring out that I was different and dealing with that absolutely amazing albeit frightening reality. I was understanding and accepting who I was NOT.
What a lot of people won’t tell you for fear of individuality being birthed, is that it’s okay to not know what the heck you’re doing and to be a mess in your 20s. The cool reality of our 20s is that we get to learn about ourselves. Life reveals our authentic selves to us, toughens us up and teaches us to simply be all that authentic goodness. Life begins in the midst of a beautiful mess. Path-defining questions rise from a mess. Revolutionary thoughts swell in the minds of beautiful messes. Heaven cracks open from the soul felt prayers in the middle of beautiful messes. The beginning of the rest of our lives always starts from some sort of mess.
As I grow older, I’ve lived just enough to grow the beautifully ugly guts to fight opinions and ideologies and stupidity to get totally naked and free and begin stepping into my own skin. My own skin, porous enough to allow new experiences to saturate and do me some good, yet tough enough to scar and keep it moving despite the wounds of warfare. Whatever/whoever I AM, I live to be her now. Not hide her away behind a society-painted mask. My 20s have taught/are teaching me that.
So, even though every now and then I still wonder if I’ll ever get the swing of being politically correct 24/7, I always end up shrugging and smiling as the beautiful mess in me says that now, that’s just not who I am and it’s quite all right.
La Truly is a late-blooming Aries whose writing is powered by a lifetime of anecdotal proof that awkward can transform to awesome and fear can cast its crown before courage. La seeks to encourage thought, discussion and change among young women through her writing. Check out her blog: www.hersoulinc.com and Twitter: @AshleyLaTruly.
If you’re lucky enough to be one of those “kids” who has a great relationship with his/her parents, lives at home and is stacking money to save for that dream home, then you definitely have the life! However, for most of us, being an adult and living at home doesn’t always make for an ideal living situation. Sure, there are situations were living at home with mom and dad is beneficial, even necessary. But if you’re over 25 years old and still sleeping in a twin size bed wondering what you’re doing with your life, here are some signs it’s time to raise up out of your parents’ house and find your own spot.
- You’re There For THEM
Some people stay at home longer than they want to because their parents expect them to stay there – either to keep them company or until they get married. Maybe this is something parents expect more from their daughters than their sons, but if you find that you’re there to help your parents deal with the “empty nest syndrome” rather than living on your own, it’s time to sit them down and have a talk. Explain to your parents that just because you’re moving out, it doesn’t mean you’ll never come around to check on them or that you’re going to become a heathen turning your studio apartment into a den of sin (even if that is what you’re planning on doing with it). While it’s admirable that your parents want you to stay home until you get married, moving from your parents’ house to your husband’s house might not be what you had in mind. Your parents are grown and while they may miss you, they’ll get over it if you move out. They should want you to be independent, not rely on them for the rest of your life.
2. You Come Home Late – Often
If you’re moving back home after college graduation, it’s probably safe to say that you still like to party and hang out like you did back on campus. This means you’re used to coming home when you feel like it because there were no parents at home giving you a curfew. But now when you come home, you trip the alarm and wake up everyone in the house – and that’s if your parents aren’t already up waiting for you. Some of you may have folks that respect the fact that you’re no longer a child and have no problem with you coming home at all hours of the night. But if your parents think you’re being disrespectful by stumbling in at 3am every night, then you have to respect their house and find a place of your own so that you’re not disturbing anyone else.
3. You’re the Babysitter
If you have a younger sibling who requires a babysitter, consider yourself that babysitter. Your parents will expect you to watch him or her – for free – and without complaint, which could dampen your plans on a Friday night. If you live at home, you’re the live-in nanny. But if you lived say, 30 minutes away, you might be able to weasel out of watching your younger sister because you can’t get there in time because of…traffic. Or it could be because you’re not home or because you’re grown, pay your own rent and are out doing what YOU want to do.
4. The House is Crowded
Even if your parents don’t make you watch your younger siblings, there’s still a chance there’s always a house full with other family members. You can’t even invite your friends over because there’s no place for them to sit – so you’re all packed in the basement or the backyard because your house is too small to fit all these people. If you had your own place, you could spread out a little bit and relax. Even if you lived in a studio, it would be YOUR space – and no one has to be there but you.
5. No Room For Your Stuff
Not only is it difficult to find space for you and your friends to hang out, you may not also have room for your personal things, especially if you’re sharing a room with someone. After 4 years of college, I managed to accumulate things and none of it fit into my mom’s house when I moved back home. Adults tend to buy things – electronics, clothes, shoes…stuff, and it may not fit into your room or parents’ basement. They also may not want you to clutter their home with your things and use it for storage so you’re limited to buying what fits in the confines of the four walls of your bedroom. If you find yourself longing for a new bedroom set, or a huge flat screen TV, then you should find your own apartment to put it in.
6. No Privacy
If you suffer from any of the issues already mentioned, it is safe to say you probably have no room for privacy either. If you start dating someone, bringing them back to your “room” for some action probably isn’t so hot – not with mom and dad roaming around the house freely. So sex is pretty much out of the question unless you get busy at a hotel or the back seat of your car. You can’t even have a conversation on the phone without your younger brother ear hustling and you basically feel trapped because there’s nowhere to go to have a little “me” time. If this is you and you have a decent job, then you should have moved out yesterday.
Depending on how old-school your folks are, living at home means following their rules. Whether this means coming in at a certain hour, not being able to stay out over-night, doing chores or anything else your parents require you to do while living under their roof, if their rules don’t sit well with you, then you may need to consider getting 2 or 3 jobs so that you can move out and save your sanity. After all, it istheir house and if you’re not paying rent, you really can’t tell them “no,” can you? Well, maybe you can, but they’d probably tell your grown behind to move out and pay your own rent and follow your own rules. Can’t say that I blame them. Get your own spot.
8. You’re a Slob
Speaking of chores, if you’re a slob, then living at home with you is probably a nightmare. While I’d hope that one would be clean and neat even while living on his own, you don’t HAVE to wash dishes in your own place if you don’t want to. When you live alone, you don’t have to do laundry for a month if you don’t feel like it, and you can leave your clothes all over the place and no one can say boo about it. Again, I’m not saying being a slob is cute, but if you’re tired of your mom nagging you to pick up your socks or to move your shoes out of her way, then get your own place and be lazy and sloppy to your heart’s content. Just make sure to clean up before company comes over.
9. You’re 30+ Years Old
Enough said. At some point, you just have to become an adult and know what it’s like to be responsible for yourself. This means paying rent or a mortgage. Again, if you live in an old-fashioned household where the expectation is to stay at home until you’re married, and you’re cool with that, then rock out. Or maybe you have the coolest parents on the planet where living at home is actually a pleasurable experience. But living on your own can also teach you to be more responsible, establish credit and can allow you to have a certain level of freedom that you can enjoy before you think about setting down with a family of your own (if that’s what you’d like). If you’re living at home to save money or because you need to take care of an ailing parent, the recession hit you hard or any other reason that has nothing to do with you simply being a leach – then so be it. But if any of the previous scenarios has you pulling your hair out, then begin your search for a new pad and sign a lease. It’s time.
Just yesterday, I was reading Frank Ocean’s very thoughtful, very insightful interview with GQ, when I stumbled across a sentence, a revelation about his own life that reaffirmed a truth in my own. In speaking about his absentee father, Frank Ocean, talked about how his maternal grandfather stepped in to become the father figure he needed.
“Her father was my paternal figure. He’d had a really troubled life with crack, heroin, and alcohol and had kids he wasn’t an ideal parent to. I was his second chance, and he gave it his best shot. My grandfather was smart and had a whole lot of pride. He didn’t speak a terrible amount, but you could tell there was a ton on his mind—like a quiet acceptance of how life had turned out. He was a mentor at AA and NA, and I would go with him to meetings.”
Though my own father has always been very present and active in me and my sister’s life, I knew from a very young age that there was tension where my grandfather was concerned. One could argue that when my grandmother turned up pregnant, he wasn’t ready to be a father or a husband. But in the 1940′s in Jamaica, it would have shamed my grandmother and her family to have a baby born out of wedlock. So he entered into two roles he was no where near ready for: husband and father. Unfortunately, he wasn’t the greatest at either one of those jobs.
As a husband, he was still living like a single man, a single, often mean-spirited man, who expressed his anger or frustration in violent ways. As a father he was present physically (for some) but not often emotionally. He was discouraging when he should have been supportive, deceptive when he should have been forthcoming.
Some would argue that I should have never known all these things about my grandfather; but I was an inquisitive, very observant child. So when I saw something, heard something or sensed something going down between he and my grandmother or between he and my mother, or her siblings I asked questions… persistently. And fortunately, the women and men in my family told me the truth, all while reminding me that at the end of the day, no matter what, he was my grandfather and I had to respect him.
So, as a child I had to come up with a strategy to do so. I’m not going to say that I never looked at him differently, there were times when I’d recall the latest story I’d heard about him and internalize it as my own pain, my own resentment toward him. But eventually, I got to the point where I realized that wasn’t my pain to carry. When I think about who my grandfather had been in my life, he was the man who drove us around Indianapolis, explaining the history of our city and expounding on the beauty of trees. He was the man who took us to the Christmas tree lighting on the circle, driving us around and around until we were dizzy. The man who bought us ice cream. The man who made a church a priority. And though semblances of his old ways would sometimes resurface, I could see that in a lot of ways, my grandfather was two different people. So I learned to split him.
When my beloved grandmother died, several members of our family, wondered morbidly and maybe even cruelly, why my grandfather hadn’t gone first. After all, my grandmother was an angel and a lot of times, my grandfather was nothing short of a hot mess. It took me years to understand it.
The answer came to me almost a decade later. My mother, who had just overcome a bout with breast cancer, called me to tell me that my grandfather came to see her at her job and in the midst of talking about her condition got caught up in a wave of emotion, embraced her and shed tears as he explained to her that he loved her, that there was a purpose for her life and that God had blessed her.
My mother couldn’t figure out why he’d acted out of his normal character, why he’d said those things to her. For me, it was obvious that there were things he needed to say. Despite his litany of flaws, anyone who’s around my grandfather for a few minutes, will recognize that he’s a blessed man. And after my mother told me what he had done, it became clear to me that God had kept and continues to keep my grandfather around because there are lessons he still needs to learn at 94 years old. Lessons, that maybe my grandmother didn’t need or had already acquired. Either way, I can appreciate his growth.
Being that my grandfather is in his 90′s, I always want to make sure I get to see him when I’m home. And over the past several years, he’s become much more than the man who took us on drives or bought us ice cream. My grandfather, who devoted much of his life to driving sickly elders, people younger than him in most cases, to the hospital, taught me about the importance of community service. His humble beginnings, immigration story and his successful business, have shown me that things these days aren’t as tough as they could be, that I can always work harder. When I moved to New York, without a job and into a triflin’ apartment, my grandfather sent me away with words of encouragement, confidence and five English pounds, just in case I needed to convert it to US dollars if times ever got too tough.
If I’m called upon, to speak at my grandfather’s funeral, I’ll take a note from my grandmother and keep it real by saying he might have had a rough start, but God spared his life and allowed him to grow into the man he was supposed to be.
There were two things that got your A$$ whooped in my school:
1) Looking like a nerd.
2) Looking like a nerd with a permanently raised hand.
Let me give you the visuals first: At thirteen, I’d accrued an incredibly large gap from adolescent thumb sucking, glasses as thick as coke bottles and a head of poof perm; due to my mother’s try-it-at-home experiments. It also didn’t help that I was extremely talented in reading/writing.
That being said, I was in for it.
Earlier on in my school career, I’d moved from the boroughs of New York City to the burbs’. The third grade teacher at my elementary school placed me at a table in the back of the room, until they could scramble up a desk for me. Immediately I was the center of attention. Girls’ high pitched whispers glazed the bellows of the boys, all pondering the same question: Who was the freak?
This might not have been their inquiry. In fact, my twenty-three and more sensible self will tell me that the excitement arose solely from having a new face around. However, my nine year old insecure self was immediately frightened. Agitated with the urgency of needing to know whether I was liked or not, I came to a conclusion: I would stand my ground; I would be an individual and set my own trends.
I was doomed.
Kristin Hall was the first to speak, “I’m the flyest girl around here and if you want to get in good with anyone, you have to join my sorority.”
“Sorority, what’s that?” I asked.
The other girls who’d accumulated behind her snickered, “It’s something my mom was in. It’s when a group of girls all hang together and does whatever they want for fun. You can only hang with us though.”
“No thanks, I kind of want to get to know everyone.” I breathed.
Kristin placed her hand on her hips, swung an evil glance around the room to the rest of the students and smirked.
“Fine, do what you want.”
Little did I know, Kristin’s glance would define my entire primary AND secondary school career. It seemed as though everyone was afraid of her and since I’d rejected her invitation, I was the enemy.
During lunch, I’d sit under my favorite tree for the next two years beckoning for this phase to pass. I hoped that it would all be over. While catching up on The Babysitter’s Club and Nikki Giovanni, in the shade, the girls would walk past and throw insults for no reason at all.