I grew up white in a black world, and my childhood was rife with turmoil.
I was an outcast, taunted and beat up. I was vilified because I dared to love the black boy upstairs. By the time I was 11, white people called me “nigger lover” and black people ostracized me.
I belonged nowhere.
We were together for years – until that one day in junior high school, white boys chased us down deserted train tracks. My screams for help echoed sharply off the metal rails, as they beat on his arms with a crow bar. Until one broke.
We were never together again.
We have kept track of each other our whole lives. The scar tissue around our hearts preserves a wary distance between us.
Still, I dream of being reunited with him someday.
The great love of my life before I got married was a dark brown man I spent many years with.
He was undeniably gorgeous. Far better looking than I was or will ever be. One evening, on an overcrowded D train, a young black woman screamed at me for daring to be with this beautiful man, ugly fucking white bitch that I was.
Trapped in that subway car, I had no escape. He tried to subdue her, but she only screamed louder, said uglier things. I folded into myself, rendered mute by her attack. I was ashamed of my skin color. Again.
I stared down, hot tears dripping into my lap.
We broke up soon after that.
My childhood in a black NYC housing project has left me with a paradoxical mix of emotions and loyalties.
Although I grew up fearful of being persecuted because of my white skin, I also developed a fierce allegiance towards African-Americans, an allegiance that informs how I live my life today.
I loathe racism.
When I drive into Newark for my community service project, and people remark, “I wouldn’t even park my car there,” I SEETHE. They are not saying that based on statistical data on street crime in Newark, which may even indicate that car jackings happen frequently there.
They just mean, “Newark is full of black people.”
I was sexually assaulted twice in my life. Once at a college frat party, and once in a seedy New York shooting gallery. My personal mythology tells me that heroes and villains come in ALL colors; that an Ivy League white boy is just as likely to rape me as a black drug dealer, and you will NEVER convince me otherwise.
My painful memories are valid. But I have not spent my entire adulthood fearful that I will die for the color of my skin.
I have had several skirmishes with police over the years, more than I care to think about. Yet, I never had to worry THAT I MIGHT NOT MAKE IT HOME ALIVE.
Recent events have left me completely paralyzed in my ability to write anything.
This is not writer’s block. I have lost my belief in the power of the written word.
I’m plagued by the thought that not just my work, but all creative expression, is in vain when the world suffers such tragedy.
What do my stories even matter, in the face of these larger, horrific events?
I am an inner city project girl at heart. I have the fear, rage, defiance and survival instincts of a project girl, and always will.
And yet, I am undeniably WHITE. To even suggest that I understand what it means to live life in black skin is offensive. I was able to shed my project girl past.
And I am alive, largely due to the color of my skin, whereas most of the people I grew up with are dead today.
For weeks I have walked around uneasily, with a cold knot of fear in my stomach.
Everyone is ranting on, and no one is listening. People are quoting statistics as if it matters whether one, or one million, dead bodies lie on slabs.
The Civil War was caused by racism. And I know it’s going to happen again. Right here, on American soil, we will be a nation divided, and make no mistake about it –
There will be blood.
I’M SO ANGRY listening to self-aggrandizing politicians drone on about change.
I AM TIRED OF THEIR WORDS.
I want to don army fatigues, dash into the fray like a warrior, and physically put my body in between black men and bullets; between policeman and bullets.
But I am a coward, just as I was 35 years ago, when I stopped loving the black boy upstairs.
The music of my childhood was 70’s R&B. I have loved and lived with dark skinned men. My first true love was black. My first best friend was black. The first house parties I attended were all black.
Black culture feels like home to me.
I’m going to get CRUCIFIED for saying that, because of my white privilege. How DARE I appreciate the positive aspects of a culture without suffering from oppression? If I talk about my love for rap music, dark-skinned men, soul food, cornrow braids – I’m appropriating a culture.
The world has become so divisive on the issue of race, I’m afraid of expressing my love of black culture. I feel shame, again, because of my white skin.
I am not entitled to love Black America because I am not willing to die for her.
Yet try as I might to deconstruct this, to make it more politically palatable, I cannot. I cannot stop loving black culture anymore than I can stop loving my son. It’s embedded in me on a cellular level.
No matter how angry it makes you, you can’t take that from me.
And so now I am finally AWAKE. And I will fight.
My weapons will be to speak out against anyone who says something racist and ignorant. I will forbid adults to spew their racist rhetoric in front of my child, ever.
I will speak out on social media, instead of hiding in desperate avoidance.
And I am moving my family out of this white washed, homogenous suburban neighborhood. I will raise my child in a culturally diverse neighborhood, because he deserves better than this.
I wrote this despite my overarching belief that right now, creative expression is useless.
I wrote this because until I did, I could write nothing else.
I wrote this because although I am afraid, I must do SOMETHING. And this is all I have.
I wrote this because I KNOW that fear is built into the racist society in which we live, and used to control ALL of us.
I wrote this because although I may not be racist, I enable racism EVERY DAY by participating in a racist society.
I wrote this because maybe, MAYBE, someone else who has been asleep will awaken now, like I finally have.
I wrote this because despite all my fear, inaction and shame,
there is a speck of hope
for the possibility of change.
Click below if you’d like to hear my spoken word piece, “White Girl.”
Talk to me.
We all need desperately to start talking, and I’m REALLY listening.
Tinder – lowering sexual standards since 2012.
Tinder is the fast food of online dating – quick, cheap, and temporarily curbs your hunger. Although I’m sure people have met their significant others on Tinder – just given the sheer quantity using it – it has an undeniably sleazy quality to it.
No judgments here. I like the sleaze.
Tinder combines everything that is wrong with society – hook up culture, chatting with people without real interaction, the desire for instant gratification, making snap judgments, rejecting people solely upon their looks – into one convenient online shopping-type app!
A veritable smorgasbord of single (ha!) people! Swipe and go!
In a recent article that I made up, the CEO of Tinder argued that Tinder is a progressive social construct which gives legitimacy to the online dating phenomenon.
They left out the part where you don’t need to have even $5 in your pocket to leave the house and purchase a beer somewhere. Or the ability to hold even the most rudimentary of real-life conversations.
And yet, people everywhere are getting laid off this app. It’s the cyber version of grunting, clubbing a woman over the head, and dragging her back to your cave for hot troglodyte sex.
It’s also free. That gives you an idea of the financial status of many Tinderonis. I’m not saying it’s teeming with broke-ass motherfuckers, but apparently, I appeal to a great many of them.
Perhaps because I look kinda funky in my profile pics, and am holding a guitar in one, I attract a lot of artist-writer-musician types. No one should give up his dream. However, if you’re approaching 50 and your artsy dream doesn’t include being able to afford a studio apartment, perhaps it’s time to modify your dream? To one that includes a steady paycheck, and perhaps a dental plan because OMG are you kidding with those teeth?
There are men who actually open with gross sexual overtures, like “Hi! Spit, or swallow?” Oh, WOW, it’s like Sophie’s Choice, how can I make that decision?! I will probably want to do both, you suave devil, you!
Some men are either trying desperately to be quirky, or English is not their first language. I don’t want to meet “I’m half a camel, I once tipped a stripper in McNuggets.”
There are quite a few men with that “restraining order” look in their eyes. Their profiles tend to go something like, “BOOM! YOU BITCHES CAN’T HANDLE THIS. THE PARTY’S ALL UP IN HERE. POW!” (And other cartoon fight sounds. Kapow!)
I don’t understand what motivates someone to pose shirtless in a club, guzzling a bottle of vodka, with his arm around another chick. The 1995 rave called, it wants its sweaty chest picture back.
Some men put up only picture of their face, then FIVE pictures of random objects. Like, 5 car pics. Their profiles say things like “Love cars, weed, partying.” Fabulous! Let’s get stoned and DRIVE AROUND, SHALL WE? I would love to court death with a guy who describes himself as a “SWAGASAURUS.”
I may need to join a different online dating service, one that costs actual money to join and requires that you have reasonable proficiency with the use of your opposable thumbs.
I did meet a handsome, sweet, funny guy. He made me laugh, which is always a plus. I was about to give him my number when he asked me if he could tell me about a certain “fetish” he has.
I’m pretty open, so I was curious.
He has a “crush” fetish. DON’T GOOGLE THIS. YOU CANNOT UNSEE THIS.
There are two levels. Level 1 is getting turned on by insects and other invertebrates being crushed. Level 2 is getting sexually turned by small vertebrates, like kittens or bunny rabbits, getting crushed to death.
WTF? Is this Tinder, or an episode of Criminal Minds? That night I wept for humanity and slept with a Bible under my pillow.
There are so many bizarre encounters on Tinder…
…people MUST be using it for the entertainment. I know I do.
This dude is one of my favorites. His picture is from a Purina Puppy Chow ad. He loves to hold conversations with me that make ZERO sense. He rarely responds to anything I say, so I’ve just begun saying random things – to see if he’s even reading what I wrote.
I’m pretty sure he’s a bot.
Another man rambled on and on about what we would do, once we were a “couple,” despite the fact that we hadn’t even MET yet. Here’s an excerpt:
What a fun-filled night! Perhaps I’ll even get to squeeze a few of his blackheads!
Despite the fact that Tinder is yet another nail in the coffin of Western civilization,
it’s a fun app and I’m keeping it because hey – I’M on there, right? So it can’t be ALL bad.
Now I just need to find the male version of myself. Although, some might argue I’m already the male version of myself.
It might be the fast food of online dating, but I won’t deny that even I crave some Micky D’s once in a while.
Of course, McDonald’s won’t give you herpes…
Have you been on Tinder? Or other online dating services?
Did you meet your significant other that way? IS THERE HOPE?
Talk to me. I’m listening.
My coke dealer Harold asked me to “babysit” his girlfriend Lisa when she went out clubbing. I could understand why. She was only 16; a high school girl who had run away from her parents in Scarsdale to live in charming squalor with Harold in his East Village apartment. I called her “Lolisa.”
I didn’t question the ethics of a 30-year-old man living with a 16-year-old girl. In 1991, I didn’t question much of anything. Besides, Harold was successful in his own way; confident, funny, smart. He would have made the perfect Jewish boyfriend were it not for the trickle of powdery white snot that always snaked down from his nostril onto an upper lip he was too numb to feel.
Harold had an international connection which provided him with cocaine much purer than typical street coke. I figured out that I could step on it with my own cut formula and redistribute it to my friends. So, if Harold wanted me to babysit Lolisa while he ran his business, I would comply.
One night, she and I were hanging at the bar at CBGB’s when the band “The Exploited” walked in. They were a Scottish hardcore punk band.
Hardcore punk was punk on steroids; faster, more violent, more dangerous. Hardcore wasn’t my scene but these guys were wildly funny. They chatted us up and invited us to see them play that Sunday.
Hell YEAH. Hardcore fans or not, we knew The Exploited were riding the wave of their most successful album to date. Who doesn’t want to party with the band?
The show was savage and chaotic. Punks were injured by frenetic slam dancing and stage diving. I wasn’t into the music, but I was WAY into their bass player, Smeeks. He was handsome, muscled and mohawked. Wattie, the lead singer, was all over Lisa. With his gargantuan bright crimson mohawk and anti-hero demeanor, he was an even better way for Lisa to say “fuck you” to Scarsdale.
The girls who were part of the hardcore scene were PISSED. Who were WE to be hanging out with their idols? The leader of the pack was Lazar, a wolverine with half her head shorn, the other half bleached and ragged, an upside-down cross tattooed on the side of her face.
That’s commitment to a fucked-up lifestyle right there. Ink like that.
We were impervious to their threats. We were with THE BAND.
After the show, we milled around on the street while they loaded up a van with all their equipment. Finally, the band, the roadies, the sound guy and various other members of their entourage piled in. Wattie said, “Come on, ladies! Get in!”
I peeked inside. There were at least 12 guys in there. Getting into a van with a dozen drunken Scots suddenly seemed like a baaaad idea.
“It’s too crowded in there! We’ll catch a cab and meet you uptown.”
They took off, slamming the back doors shut.
I felt them before I saw them.
The hardcore girls were a pack of angry she-beasts; snarling, spitting and snapping their jaws at us.
I was supposedly watching out for Lisa, so I stepped in front of her protectively. Lazar pounced on me with a searing punch to the side of my head. I went down. It became an all-out brawl with the gang of them punching and kicking me. With industrial Doc Martens, the kind reinforced in the toe with steel.
I heard, but couldn’t see, Lisa also getting beaten. The girls were chanting “GIVE US YOUR LEATHERS” which was a British punk gang thing. Though American, they adopted all things British punk, even affecting a cockney accent. Stealing leather jackets was a street victory.
They would have to beat me unconscious before I gave up my jacket. They got Lisa’s off, and held it up victoriously, screaming “Oi! Oi!,” a British punk war cry. It was at that point that I managed to escape.
I staggered to my feet, and in one of the most cowardly moves of my life, I fled, leaving Lisa there to fend for herself.
Bloody and disoriented, I tried to flag down a cab but none would stop for me. I looked like trouble, and New York cabbies avoid trouble. I saw a couple flagging a cab, and when it stopped, I jumped in with them. The man demanded that I get out, but the woman with him was more sympathetic to my plight. We drove back for LIsa, but she and the crowd were gone.
I went to my boyfriend’s apartment. I had stabbing pains in my chest and he insisted I go to the Emergency Room. I stubbornly refused to let him call an ambulance. We walked out onto the street and he found a deserted shopping cart and put me in it, wrapping me tenderly in a blanket.
He pushed me 20 blocks to Beth Israel Hospital, where doctors determined that I had a concussion, a dislocated shoulder and several broken ribs.
Harold never spoke to me again. Lisa had gotten beaten up even worse than I had, and returned to her family’s home in Scarsdale. Her parents hired an attorney and tried to press charges against Lazar and her hellions, but no one was willing to testify as a witness to the event. The charges were dropped.
Eventually, I healed.
What didn’t heal was my profound sense of shame for abandoning Lisa. Twenty five years later, I still regret it.
This was a defining moment in the development of my core values. After that, I became a fiercely loyal friend. I will stand up, against all odds, for the people I love. In my opinion, too many people have a weak and diminished sense of friendship, wanting to stay neutral to all and loyal to none. Too concerned about what opportunities they may lose if they “choose sides.” Stay in friendships that have crossed boundaries because personal gains are at stake.
Perhaps that works for them. But they are missing out on the one of life’s great experiences – that of being a true soul friend.
Have you ever been in the wrong place at the wrong time? Did you learn any lessons from the experience?
Do you have any true soul friends?
Talk to me. I’m listening.
Hang out with me on Facebook! I say funny things there.
I’m heading to BlogU this weekend, and have read scads of articles on how to pack for a blog conference.
I have my own ideas of what to bring. Here’s how to REALLY pack for a blog conference, à la Samara.
1. DRUGS & BOOZE
If I’m going to mingle with other humans you best believe I need to have a righteous buzz. If you see me face down sizzling in my own drool, it just means I got a package from one of my friends in Portland. Feel free to wake me by hurling Skittles at me and yelling “TASTE THE RAINBOW!!”
If you’re flying, you can always hide drugs in your vagina. If you’re not flying, you can STILL hide drugs in your vagina. Everything is better after it’s marinated in vagina.
Crushed up and snorted Adderall is fabulous when paired with a nice Merlot. Crystal meth is optional but always a crowd pleaser.
The conference is at the University of Maryland, and we’re all housed in the dormitories there. There’s no alcohol allowed in the dorm, and, YOU KNOW, NO ONE EVER BREAKS COLLEGE ALCOHOL RULES. Forget wine, I’m gonna need lots of tequila to answer questions I have no answer for, such as “What is your blog about?”
2. EVERYTHING IN MY CLOSET
One article suggested I make index cards for each day, with my itinerary written and an outfit planned.
By what sorcery would I know on Thursday what I want to wear on Saturday? I’ll need at least 3 sizes of jeans, depending on my level of bloat.
Maybe I’ll break out that pair of high-waisted denim shorts with suspenders I bought because they were on sale at Forever 21. They make me look like the love child of Boy George and Urkel but they were only $4.
You can never pack too many clothes. What if I meet a millionaire who wants to whisk me away on his boat for a three-hour tour, ♫ a three-hour tour ♫, and we run into a tropical storm and are shipwrecked on an uncharted island somewhere in the Pacific Ocean and I need ALL THE THINGS?
3. FORTY-ELEVEN PAIRS OF SHOES
I’ll be doing lots of walking, so I need flats. That could mean combat boots or gladiator sandals, depending on how prehistoric my toenail look. I need stiletto heels for obvious reasons. If it rains, I’m going to need my cute rubber rain boots. Workout sneakers, in case I decide to work out. I know, I know, I don’t even work out at home don’t LOOK AT ME!
Flip-flops are essential. I do NOT want to catch foot herpes from a communal bathroom.
4. MENSTRUAL PRODUCTS
The uterus ninjas are here. Light, medium, heavy, ultra heavy “I should just stuff a fluffy rodent up there”? It’s a crap shoot these days. I’m packing the Super Deluxe Variety Pack of tampons.
5. HAIR STUFF
Blow dryer, duh. But also, in case I get ambitious, flat iron, curling iron, maybe a roller set I got on clearance at Walmart and never used? Root volume, hair spray, gel, smoothing spray, detangler, oh I was supposed to get travel sizes of all these things? Who has time for that? I’m writing THIS when I should be packing.
In case I have to make a citizen’s arrest.
7. MANY EYE MAKEUP PALETTES
I like a daytime natural eye look, but I also do a smoky eye, a cat eye (if I have an extra 30 minutes to do winged eye liner), and a statement eye (the statement being “help me, I look like Steve Buscemi.”)
8. FIREARMS, AMMUNITION AND ACCESSORIES
I’m fairly certain guns are legal int the South. YES, Maryland is the south. It’s below the Mason Dixon line, isn’t it? Listen, I’ve heard you can eat crabs and drink beer in a restaurant there without wearing a shirt or shoes. That sounds like the South to me.
Also, I need specific clothes for concealed carry. Thank goodness for this Concealed Carry Fashion Expo. A girl needs options, ya know?
9. DUCT TAPE
Why wouldn’t you want it for a blog conference? Shoe breaks, luggage tears, purse gets a hole in it? Fix it with duct tape! Flat tire? Duct tape. Skin exfoliation? Duct tape. Alien space ship crashes and needs minor repairs so they can return to the Planet Crouton? Duct tape.
Add clothespins and baby powder to the duct tape and you have a portable S&M kit. The baby powder is to help put on latex – but you knew that.
10. EMERGENCY PONCHO, FIRE EXTINGUISHER, FLASHLIGHTS, DOOR HINGES, JUMPER CABLES, GLUE GUN
Because shit happens.
By the time you read this, I’ll be on my way to BlogU!! I can’t wait to spend time with my online friends!
The most talked about event at the conference is the closing night costume party. This year’s theme is “Tacky Wedding.” Costumes are not my thing, but my girl Ashley Fuchs convinced me to dress up as “Hungover Stripper From Last Night’s Bachelor Party” since I could just pull things from my own closet. Score!
Maybe, there’ll even be pictures…
What do you pack when you go away for the weekend? Are you an overpacker, like me?
Where should I go for good crab in Maryland?
Talk to me. I’m listening.