Thursday, June 26, 2008

I DEMAND you come back, Dexter!

So, as you know, I’ve been jilted, once again, by a man. Although crazy artists do occasionally provide the boost needed during the work day, I find I need something stronger to really handle my emotional scandal once I’m away from the distractions of the plantation. Oftentimes this is some sort of documentary on Discovery Health, where I can watch everyday people suffer unspeakable tragedies and display the triumph of the human spirit.

I realized the effect these documentaries had on me many moons ago, when I was watching the special “I Eat 30,000 Calories a Day,” which followed 3 morbidly obese people as they consumed more food than it seemed humanly possible. Each segment reached its crescendo when the omniscient director would place all the food the person ate in a given day on one table, so they could really see how much they were taking in.
“I guess do eat a lot.” Said one British woman matter-of-factly.
Yes. Yes, you do.

Lately, Discovery Health hasn’t been doing it for me, and last weekend I needed a fix to get through the dark times.

That’s when I discovered the National Geographic Channel—or “Nat Geo” as they like to call it—where they aren’t afraid to go to the far reaches of the third world and beyond to bring you images of terrifying and captivating deformities. These tales of genetic anomalies are most effective for silencing my tears, for nothing really helps you put petty crap in perspective like seeing an Indian girl who was born with 8 limbs (I HEART LAKSHMI).

I learned the story of Lakshmi last Sunday night, when I was only able to fall asleep after watching “The Girl With 8 Limbs,” followed by “The Science of Dwarfism,” and then “The Science of Gigantism.” (Watching the gigantism doc actually made me feel somewhat better, as I realized it was possible for a glass of milk to be too tall.) As I stared at the television, transfixed, I felt a spark of hope as the Indian doctors took on this groundbreaking surgery. When Lakshmi survived—with only 4 LIMBS—I knew that all was right in the world, even if I was destined to die alone.

The magical effect of this programming is potent, but not long-lasting, and over the last two days, I’ve been in need of another hit. Unfortunately, every time I check the program listings, it’s just stuff about “cooking light” and “people who get kidnapped while vacationing overseas”—bor-ing! I quickly changed the channel to Showtime so I could watch Dexter On Demand. Because, when all else fails, nothing lifts the mood like watching an hour-long drama about a serial killer who makes other serial killers his victims.

I started watching Dexter for the first time about 3 weeks ago, when I stayed in on a sunny Memorial Day and ended up watching 7 episodes in a row. For some reason, getting into the mind of a psychopath was riveting, and that Michael C. Hall is no slouch to look at—even when he’s killing. He really shows the seedy underbelly of everyone, and after a couple of episodes, I kinda start to get where he’s coming from. (Apparently, my therapist thinks this is a “red flag”—to me, it’s a sign of fine screenwriting)

I started season 2 a couple of weeks ago, and came home last night ready to dig back into the show—and take my mind off of things. However, when I went to the On-Demand menu, I was greeted with a site more frightening than the girl with 8 limbs: DEXTER WAS NO LONGER AVAILABLE ON DEMAND.


Um, Showtime, how the f*&% can you tell me I can watch something when I want, but then not let me watch it?! How can you suck me in with your riveting nail-biting drama and then yank it away from me before I can get closure?! How am I supposed to get through this latest rejection without you, Dexter, to tell me all humans are worthless?! HOW?!!!!

Oh god.
How could they both leave me at the same time?!

So, I’m going to go home to night and pray to black Jesus (hair like lamb’s wool!) that there’s some damn good documentary on Nat Geo or D-Health—I don’t know, something about a girl born with a twin inside her liver, a boy with the genetic makeup of a Labrador, or a paraplegic who climbed an ancient Mayan temple. Whatever will remind me that it’s not as bad as I think it is.

Please come back to me, Dex. I need to know how it ends. You're the only man I can trust, because....well, I know that if you didn't like me you'd kill me in a methodical manner. There's no in-between with you.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Contests With Artists II

Here are some more gems from the artists you don't know and don't love.
Again, I must stress: I would LOVE to show you the images that accompany these titles and captions, but I'd hate to end up in the slammer just because I hurt an artist's feelings--and because I did something "illegal."

Caption: The anger portrayed here has a long history. It use to be that I had an anger problem like most Americans. My motivation is to do "quality" work. I use logic/scientific and holistic/random methods to push me past the envelope of "realistic" art.

[I would come up with a snarky comment, but the fact that "quality" is in quotes shows that she knows just as well as I do that this is a hot mess]

Oh, this next one is really funny to me because it is part of a series. An older gentleman submitted about 6 self-portraits, all containing multiple images of himself in one space. For example: We see him painting himself while looking at his reflection in a mirror; in another, we walk into a gallery that only has images of his face on all the walls and pillars; in another, he sits by a fireplace having a conversation with himself over a bottle of wine. In "Marc, please sit still," we see the artist sitting in a chair, posing for a portrait. He is being painted by...HIMSELF!!!

Title: Marc, please sit still
Caption: Watercolor, 15" x 18" The idea of an artist painting the artist going beyond the typical portrait into portraying the actual process of doing the painting and having a conversation with himself seemed like an intriging story telling device.
[I think this is a run-on sentence]

Title: In My Realm
Caption: I have loved and collected iridescent glass for as long as I can remember. I also love science fiction, space and the supernatural. When I looked into my display of glass and saw the reflections of me and the art glass I felt as though I were in space......In My Realm. I knew this was my self portrait......this is me.
[Does this make anyone else a little sad?]

Title: Sharon Scissorhands
Caption: Acrylic. Me as my alter-ego Edward Scissorhands.

Title: Me as Don Quijote
Caption: I have that dreamer type of personality that sometimes causes me to sally forth and tilt at windmills so I feel a kinship with the Quixote character of Cervantes.
[That's funny--I have a dreamer type of personality that causes me to sally forth to my computer keyboard and document this weirdness]

Title: Chartreuse
Caption: Acrylic. I am chartreuse...I feel unreal and conspicuous...I want to hide...and be noticed.
[Who doesn't, lady?]

I really like these next two because the guy thought he'd submit two different portraits, to really up his chance of winning. I love his simple captions.

Title: Studying violin
Caption: I am looking intensely at my violin.
[In this painting, the artist holds his violin up to his face, obscuring half of him. Yes, he is looking at his violin]

Title: Self with tuxedo
Caption: As I am a violinist, I wanted to pose with my tuxedo.

Monday, June 23, 2008

I am Danny Glover.

Have you ever seen the movie Lethal Weapon? One of the great buddy-cop comedies of the 20th century, it stars Mel “Before I Went Crazy and Started Slamming Jews” Gibson and Danny “Proud to be a Brother” Glover. Mel plays Riggs, a young homicidal cop all bent out of shape after the untimely death of his wife, and Danny is veteran cop Murtaugh, who’s just looking to retire and get off the mean streets. Throughout the film, as cars flip over, bullets graze their heads, and they fight for justice—and their lives—Murtaugh says “I’m too old for this shit.”

This line is repeated throughout Lethal Weapons 1, 2, 3, and 4.

I can currently relate to this line like no other.

As you know, Sojourner’s no spring chicken. And as you know if you’ve been following this blog, I can’t keep a sane, straight man to save my life. From Australia to Astoria to the depths of Brooklyn, these dudes are not treating me right. The latest blow comes from a “man” I thought was a tender gentleman caller, who spent the last month calling, texting, and wooing Sojourner with invitations to 8th grade prom and other classy dates. After asking me to spend the night on a weeknight (for the second week in a row), and speaking in more future tenses than a confused ESL student, I asked him what was going on with us.
You know, a simple state-of-the-union address.
You know, perhaps a little reassurance that this was more than a hook-up thing.
It had been a month.
There was constant texting—initiated by him. He even went so far as to respond to my telephone message with a text when he was unable to answer the phone, and then promised to call the next day.

So, you can imagine my surprise when he said I seemed to want more than he wanted, as though I was the crazy one.
And he did this an hour before we were supposed to go see a friend's improv show, meaning that not only was I left depressed and jilted, I had no Friday night plans while he got to scamper off and laugh at comedic improvisation.
One of my first thoughts (after "Why is this happening again?" and "What is wrong with me?") was "I am sick and tired of this shit"--much like Murtaugh throughout the Lethal Weapon quadrilogy (is that a word? Probably not). Like him, I just want to settle down, get out of the crossfire of single life in NYC, and retire from this dangerous game before I become a walking STD with a heart made of stone.

(remember this?)

As I lick my wounds in solitary confinement, here is a handy list that should help anyone who tries to reach out to me during this dark time.

Words and Phrases That Will Make Me Cry and Make You Feel Awkward
(Please Omit From All Sentences/Conversations/Email):
Happy/Happiness (also: Future Happiness)
The Bible (also: King James Version)
Television actor Dean Cain
Battleship (including Russian Montage film “Battleship Potemkin”)
Barren Womb
Nice Guy
8th grade
“Sex and the City” Movie(who takes a girl to see that WILLINGLY, then says she’s being too much?!)
“I don’t think we should do this.”
Teach for America (also: NYC Teaching Fellows, teaching in general, or "school")
Q Train
“I don’t know.” (Please be completely certain when we speak. I won’t take it well.)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Contests With Artists

The magazine for which I toil often holds art competitions, which allows us to make small amounts of money and gives artists one true shot at glory. We just finished holding a self-portrait competition, and, as you can imagine, some of these entries are a real doozy. (If you don’t yet know how cray-cray these artists are, please click here)

As the recipient of all general mail—letters to;; and – all come to me for screening. I usually ignore the weird ones, because I’ve learned it’s best not to engage with the delusional. For instance, when I contacted artists to let them know they were semifinalists in the last competition, I received this response from one winner:
I'm embarrassed to ask which graphite piece it was I submitted since it was some time ago. I think it was my nude self-portrait with the bat hovering over my head?

I think I can say with complete certainty that it was not.
No, it was not.

Now we’ve begun judging entries for the latest competition, and while I can’t show you the images because it would be “illegal,” I can list some of the hilarious captions that artists have written to explain their self-portraits. We asked that they limit their responses to no more than 3 sentences, and as we review the paintings, we’re all thankful we did.

You’re welcome.

1. Title: Yes, 'tis I
Caption: Self-Portrait of the one and only Miriam Kenkelberg, inspired by a photograph taken by my husband, Stew. This is painted on 140 lb Arches watercolor paper, on the back of a failed landscape. It hangs in our bedroom for our eyes only.
[Trust me, we’re all thankful this portrait is for their eyes only. Oh, and who writes
“ ‘tis”?]

2. Title: The early years
Caption: Acrylic vibrant colors capture the essence of a very full life as Wife, Mother, Businesswoman, Artist, Cook and visionary
[I hope that, when I reach the winter of my life, I can refer to myself as a “cook and visionary.”]

3. Caption: I am orange...I feel I red? I yellow?...I am hot then fruity...someone lead so I can follow.
[This is clearly a cry for help. I’d offer to lead her, but she would probably be upset when we ended up outside of Promises Treatment Center.]

4. Title: Thank God for Shades
Caption: Here I am practicing the Great American Pastime. Sunglasses are so enabling!
[I know my description won’t do it justice, but we call this painting, “Portrait of the Artist as a Perv,” because it’s an image of a man on the beach, and through the reflection in his sunglasses, we see that he is looking at a woman in a skimpy bikini.]

5. Caption: 16”x20” framed D├ęcor, stained glass, glass stones, feathers and a monarch butterfly He gave me butterflies even though he never had time, he let my love slip through his fingers and I finally realized… I was just another pet.
[We've all been there, sister!]

*******************OH GOD, THIS JUST IN***************

I am writing an article for one of our mags and have to set up an interview with an artist. I emailed him to see when the best time would be to contact him and he emailed me the following. PLEASE NOTE: there have been no changes to this email. I have not edited it for content or spelling or grammatical errors:

….It would not be a problem at all to do the interview thru pc.

I need to tell you something quickly because of your name:When I was about 25, I was a sportswriter at a big german newspaper..Another stuffmember and a close friend of mine was sent to the Olympic wintergames in Tokyo/Japan.
.In the Olympic Village a japanese hostess needs to take care for him - her name was Sojourner. Walter,the name of my friend, started to write article about the treatment and the interaction with Sojourner.
It was funny,it was charming,it was harmless - but more and more we got the feeling,he is interested in Sojourner much more than in any olympic winter disciplin. And since I knew him very well, I figured out between the lines: He has been falling in love with Sojourner.
Somebody even knew him better than I did: His wife.
So when he came back from Japan, he had a big scene at Home,
and his wife even started to take steps getting divorced.
Somehow they solved the problem,but later,whenever he was sent to another sport event,we adviced him: Make a big detour around any Sojourner.
So my big detour around you would just be,that we handle the interview via computer,
but nevertheless I will give you a call as soon as I am in an acceptable service-area.
all the best
-Cray-Cray Artist

I don’t even know what to say to that.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Choosing the Chosen People

First of all, I must apologize for my lack of bloggery as of late. I was in Detroit, Michigan, visiting my grandmother—or, as I like to call her, “G-Unit.” She turned 92 on June 9, and we all gathered to celebrate the good times.

I absolutely cannot believe I know someone who is 92. What I love most about her is that when she was 86 she dated a 68 year old—holla at a geriatric playa! She had a man even when I didn’t, and all she had to do was put in her dentures (efferdent and forget it)!

Anyway, as I returned to the world of young people and readjusted to procrastinating in the workplace yesterday, I realized something about myself:
Sometimes I wish I was a Jewess.

Perhaps it was my education at a predominantly Jewish private school that had me going to so many Bar Mitzvahs that I can now recite Hebrew prayers in my sleep.
Perhaps it’s because, like Sojourner, the Jews have a history of oppression.
Perhaps it’s my love of brisket and the fact that I’m a challahback girl.
Or perhaps it’s because they run Hollywood.

But I think it’s primarily because they are excellent matchmakers.
Think about it: J-date was the first internet dating site to really take off, and it totally set the bar for,, and others. Several of my main Jewesses have found significant others on this site, and they never seem to have a shortage of dating opportunities. Meanwhile, I’m on wondering why in god’s name there’s no screening process—or at least a spell-check option—for these fools who wink at me.
(Oh, question: can my computer get an STD from a sleazy guy winking at me?)

One of my wives is a Jewess, and she’s got a different j-date every night of the week! She just cannot pass over those matzoh balls, no matter how hard she tries. I mean, no wonder they’re the “chosen people”—they’re only choosing each other!

She recently decided to take a break from j-date--you know, to let her internet bedsheets cool-- but it seems she can’t escape the matchmaking of her brethren. I simply died laughing when she forwarded an email sent to her by an uncle:

Subject: Introduction
Consider this e-mail a modern introduction. We think you guys should meet. Your aunt and I connected with Jewster's parents on our hiking trip in Croatia, and we couldn't resist the chance to exchange contact particulars.

Besides both being attractive, the right age and culturally linked, you have a name in common (Jewster's last name is Levinson, Jewess' middle name is Levinson) and the same e-mail provider! What more is there? What do you have to lose?

Your e-mails are above, plus Jewster's phone is (xxx) xxx-xxxx and Jewess' is (xxx) xxx-xxxx (at least, that's the last one we have for her).

Go for it, please…and…ENJOY,

Uncle (and Aunt, too)

Um, how amazing is that?! Other than changing the names (to protect the Jewish), everything in that email is as it originally appeared. Do you know what Sojourner would give to have trusted family members set her up with well-to-do young chaps who share my email provider?????-- I mean, the uncle is right: WHAT MORE IS THERE?!

He outlines the key points to a happy union in one sentence: they are both attractive, the right age, and culturally linked. Um, cut and print—this one’s winning an Oscar for BEST ROMANTIC COMEDY! Hell, I don’t even need to be culturally linked or the right age—just be attractive, and the rest will work itself out.

Although this email was sent to me in an attempt to prove the silliness/borderline madness of her family members, I am quite jealous, and am now thinking of getting me a Yentle—someone to grill me up some Hebrew National hot dogs, if you know what I mean (and I think you do).
Right now, the closest thing I’ve got is my 92-year-old G-Unit, who said she wanted to set me up with Bob, the brother of my uncle’s wife (who happens to be white)—he’s 40, divorced, and moderately obese. I’m not exactly sure why she thought that would be a good idea—but I like where her head’s at.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

No, Seriously, Can I Buy You a Drank?

Um, you know how I’m really into T-Pain, right? I believe that from the beginning of this blog, I have referenced the hideous rapper on more than one occasion. I first found him humorous when he came on the scene, offering to buy you a “drank,” which is funny because that is not how the word is spelled, but it is how T-Pain pronounces it in the song, during which he also says we should “get drunk and forget what we did.” And even funnier than the song itself was its instant popularity.

Even funnier than that is this latest product, brought to my attention by a man who is rapidly rising the ranks of my favorite gays:

Yes. It is called DRANK. And yes, at the bottom of the can appears its tagline: “Slow your roll.”
The drink, a product of Houston, Texas, is a grape-flavored “anti-energy” drink that contains a combination of rose hips, melatonin, and valerian root—you know, to calm your wild ass down. It’s sold throughout the South in liquor and convenience stores and is scheduled to cross the Mason-Dixon line soon.

I think the best thing about Drank is its target audience. Straight from the press release, the creators say:
From design to production, every aspect of this calming drink was inspired by today’s popular hip hop artists who embrace the much sought-after hip hop lifestyle that encourages people to capture a stress-free state of mind.

Oh, they mean like that old song about “rolling down the street, smoking indo, sipping on gin and DRANK”? I think I’ve heard that old Negro spiritual.

Some facts about DRANK:
1. it’s not a joke.
2. people are actually drinking this
3. it costs 5 dollars a can, which I think is far too expensive for something that’s going to make me tired and lazy.
4. it apparently tastes great with vodka, which must really slow your roll.
5. the mere presence of this beverage in the marketplace confuses me and makes me uncomfortable.

Black Love

One time, I was watching an episode of Being Bobby Brown (who is right up there with Flava Flav on my list of “why black people can’t have nice things”) and Bobby and Whitney were talking as someone was applying Whitney’s makeup. Clearly, unclear of the rule no. 1 of reality-television acting (do NOT play for the camera), Bobby started talking about how Whitney was unable to…um…relieve herself earlier in the day, and how he had to…um…stick his finger up her butt to “loosen things up.”

I kid you not.

Whitney, of course, was yelling at him to stop talking, but she was too cracked out to be coherent—and I’m sure being Whitney’s husband teaches you to tune out 90% of the things that are said to you. Anyway, Bobby concluded this riveting story by saying, “That’s black love.”-- and Whitney agreed.

I remember thinking to myself, “Really? Is it?”
If that’s black love, I want no part of it.
I would sooner eat a ducolax pie with flaxseed sprinkles than have someone I love stick their finger up my butt—that’s just not how I roll.

For some reason, two-plus years later, I still remember that portion of the show, and sometimes think of it when I see two possible drug addicts in love. But I also found myself thinking of it this morning, when I saw this photo on the cover of one of the free papes:

HOW GREAT IS THAT?!!!?!?!?!?!?
That is what I call black love!!!

I haven’t really been blogging about the election, because I’m certainly not the smartest political person, and there are millions doing it already, but I must say, this picture brightened my spirits—and my faith in black love. For months now, I’ve blogged about the search for winter spoons and love, and really, when it comes down to it, all I really want is to be the Michelle to someone’s Barack. I know Barack himself is taken and hard to come by, so when I say this, I mean a tall, handsome, driven man, with the smarts and the cool to make big things happen—and who can handle a strong black woman!!!

At 5’11”, the statuesque and brilliant Michelle Obama first came into Barack’s life as his boss--how gangsta is that?! Homegirl handed him his timesheets and told him to put in some OT with her! She’s been poised and confident on the campaign trail, but hasn’t been a boring fly on the wall. She dresses to thrill—this purple number with the black belt is fiercer than an America’s Next Top Model marathon—and she is my she-ro (you know, my female hero).

I can’t wait for us to have a black first lady. I just really can’t. It’s a blacktresses dream come true.

Oh yeah, and a black president. I love Barack’s international perspective and multi-racial identity. If he’s president, we won’t bomb a damn body—can you imagine?! Barack will be like, “No, we can’t drop bombs there, my cousin lives over there!”
And that’s how you stop war.

From now on, I will only pound up to those I really love—or give, as the paper called it, “the fist bump of hope.”

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

13 Going on 30

No, I’m not going to write a glowing review of the film starring Jennifer Garner—although you know it would be glowing.
[Sidebar: Don’t you feel like Jennifer Garner is the new Jennifer Aniston? ]

Anyway, I am here to give you a detailed account of 8th Grade Prom Night 2K8.

In summation: it was magical.

In detail:

At 5:20pm on Tuesday, June 3, I boarded the L train headed for Myrtle-Wyckoff Aves. As the train passed Graham Avenue, I knew I was outside of my safe space—but the nerves in my tummy weren’t because I was heading into the outer boroughs. I was headed to an 8th grade prom at…Le Fleur De Lis.

Yes, Le Fleur De Lis.
Just cause they weren't in school didn't mean the evening didn't have class!

After walking about 30 minutes in every direction but the right one (I don’t fare well outside of my safe space), I finally saw the grand ballroom, with it’s red felt—not velvet!—rope and matching carpet. My gentlemen caller was waiting outside, worried that I had fallen into a subway grate, and when I saw him in his gold bowtie and baby-blue button-down shirt with a cream blazer, I knew this wouldn’t be any ordinary evening.

Once inside, I was blinded by multiple views of…myself, as the entire room was lined with mirror panels.

To the immediate right, an archway of blue and gold balloons accentuated a small fountain that sputtered streams of what was most likely contaminated water. It was already 40 minutes into the big night and only one student had arrived (I guess CP time is real), but judging by her pink floor-length gown and sheer white tights, I knew only more style icons were on the way.

And I was right. As students began to arrive shortly after 7, my mind was blown by the style that these young teens possessed. While there are hundreds of pictures on my gentleman caller’s camera, apparently posting them here would be “illegal” because “the children are minors.”

Luckily, as a woman of color and a writer, I will use my powers of observation and way with the written word to describe the night’s style trends

8th Grade Style Watch 2008—aka, “Teens: They’re Just Like Us!”

1. White suits were the look for the 8th grade men, which really popped against their dark Nubian skin. It was like having a second Fleet Week, as each boy, from tall and lanky to short and…well, lanky, entered in their crisp summer whites. Most weren’t afraid to add a splash of color. My favorite was the little tyke wearing a pale-pink vest with a matching pocket handkerchief and matching pink backwards kangol newsie-style cap. I’d buy papers from him any day!

2. It also seemed 8th grade prom wasn’t just a night for those who may not make it to their high school proms; the girls wore gowns that would rival any of those in Modern Bride, with taffeta for miles. Many even wore white, and I took out my pocket bible, prepared to officiate any ceremonies that might be held (I'd initially brought the good book in case any of the heathens need a dose of Jesus). At one point in the evening, as I trolled the perimeter of the dance floor to make sure there was no bumpin’ and grindin’ I almost tripped and fell as two large trains glided slowly by me. It was a close call, but I managed to survive the taffeta tumble.

3. I wore a simple black dress which was modestly cut to avoid offending the youth or the parents. However, I quickly learned that this was something I didn’t have to be concerned with. Some of these ladies had more breasts and thighs hanging out than a bucket of chicken from KFC! Many also wore tube dresses, which made for some awkward dance-floor moments. My favorite was a girl in a emerald-green backless dress who also had rhinestone eyelashes.
Yes. Rhinestone eyelashes.

4. And, of course, you know how young aspiring blacktresses roll—the hair was DONE UP. Twists with glitter sprinkled throughout, weaves barely in place, and pin curls to the max, my gentleman caller (of the Caucasian persuasion, obvi) said to one student, “Your hair is very impressive,” which was an understatement.

The party didn’t really get going until 8pm, when the STRETCH HUMMER LIMO containing 20 students arrived. These kids were clearly the coolest, as everyone gathered around to watch them emerge from their chariot. Watching them pose for pics around their ride, I thought about priorities. Many of them can’t read at their grade level, yet they’ve got more bling than extras in a rap video. I think that, instead of chipping in for a limo, they should have gotten library cards and started a book club. Anyway, I digress.

Once inside, the DJ (a portly middle-aged black man who I found out normally takes daily attendance) began spinning the jams, and after feasting on mac and cheese, chicken wings, and mozzarella sticks—I told you this joint was classy, right?—the kids got on the dance floor and shook it up like whoa! As the chaperones, we were told to stop any “booty dancing.” We strolled the perimeter of the dance floor, making sure the youth were leaving enough room for the Holy Ghost as they shook it like a polaroid picture.

The dance floor really got hot when a song came on that instructed them to hop and skip and two-step. Like a scene from a teen movie, they all began doing a choreographed routine. I almost shed a tear, as my longtime fantasy of watching a live, spontaneous dance number at a school dance was realized right before my very eyes. They also danced to songs about laffy taffy, chicken noodle soup, and apple bottom jeans—I am so out of the young negro pop loop. Maybe it was my private schooling.

As I watched the kids, I marveled at how times have changed since I was a young Sojourner. First of all, some of those 13-year-olds looked 30 (see the clever title?) , and I had to check myself in a few instances. I don’t know if it’s the hormones in the McDonald’s or the profanity on television, but when I was 13, I did not have the body to fill out at backless spaghetti-strapped dress, let alone the guts to pull it off! But here these ladies were, strutting it like whoa and repeatedly “taking it low.” (Apparently, a lot of the hip songs now demand that you take it low, and get down on the ground with your booty. It made me uncomfortable.) And if 13 year old boys now come in adult size, I may have to start training them early—JK (rowling!). But seriously, some of these boys were huge, and a few were even jacked, and I was momentarily confused.
Then I found out one of them was 17 years old.

Let’s take a moment of silence in mourning of this tragedy.
A 17-year-old 8th grader?! 17-year-old. 8th grader. Tell me that does not make you and the baby Jesus cry! This is why it rained last night! You know it’s a hot mess when you can damn near vote for Barack but can’t solve for x!

The highlight of the evening was watching my gentlemen caller dance with his students a couple of times. They flipped out as he jumped up and down and performed the white man’s overbite. They also quickly fell in line when he brought out the limbo stick, proving that he was indeed their educational massa.

Oh, wait, the actual highlight was when he gave me a corsage!!!!
It was too magical.

And I’m going to dry it and press it between the pages of my diary so that I never forget the most magical evening of my adulthood—and my youth.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Prom Night

You know how I’m all about seeking out and supporting The Talented Tenth, right? And I’m sure you know that, like rap group Wu-Tang Clan, I’m all about the children. But I don’t think I have the same handle on the young people as I used to. Back in my day, the youth struggled to learn to read, and young women got excited when they found a good man and could jump the broom. Nowadays, we’ve got teens finger-banging under the bleachers and teen sex is so old-news that we’re giving out Oscars for funny tales of teen pregnancy—starring white people! I knew things had gotten bad when I saw a 4-year-old girl singing “Touch my Body” in the bodega; innocence is gone. The youth take their freedom for granted and get a little…um….too free, if you know what I mean (and I think you do).

So, like a black Drew Barrymore in Never Been Kissed, I am going to go undercover—incognegro, if you will—and observe the young people in their natural habitat.
How will I do this?

By going to 8th grade prom.

Yes, 8th grade prom.

Apparently, in some districts, 8th grade is the new senior year, with kids having graduations and prom-like end-of-year dances. While some may say this is cute and teaches kids the social rules associated with fancy dress and co-ed dancing, I’m slightly skeptical. By engaging in rites of passage normally associated with the end of high school, it seems that the New York City public school system has given up on reaching dangerous minds and resigned itself to the fact that most of their kids won’t even make it to senior year. Maybe if we used such fun times as yet incentive (you know, along with knowledge, high self-esteem, and the prestige of historically black colleges), the young brown youth would be more interested in reaching the next level. If not for the joy of seeing a big, scarlet letter A (you know, the good kind) on a paper, they would study for the possibility that, if he/she works hard enough in school, s/he will reach a grade in which s/he can be elected prom king or queen. After all, who wouldn’t keep working for the possibility of dictatorship and popularity?

I think I’ve just solved the educational disparity of the lower class.
You’re welcome.

I’m going to this prom with a gentleman caller who teaches 8th grade social studies. Whiter than the Olympic gold medal for snowboarding, he’s had a rough first-year trying to teach the freedom writers. For example: 8th grade social studies begins with the Civil War, which requires a discussion of…slavery. Imagine how awkward it must be for a white liberal to educate brown youth on the history of oppression? Apparently, one of his students said, “What did you think when you heard about slavery? I bet you liked it.”

These children are after my own heart.

I am really excited for tonight’s prom, and have been repeatedly reminded by various friends that it is not actually mine. When I google search prom night, I just get images from horror movies and pictures of suburban teens in ball gowns. I hope that one of these is an accurate representation of what is in store tonight--either one will do. I’ve told my date to bring me a corsage and be prepared to pose for photographs, and if he “embarrasses me by dancing poorly, so help me god…”

He didn’t think that was funny.

But I know I’m not the only one who’s excited. Look at this journal entry I found while roaming the halls of the school (I was doing a dry run, for research purposes). I do not know the student’s name, but I call her Sad Girl. I imagine that she is chubby and has an overbearing mother, and tries to make friends by telling really obvious lies (like telling her classmates she met Britney Spears, or that she’s been on birth control since she was 17).

Dear Diary,
First off, I want to apologize for those mean names I called you last time. I just get really upset, and it’s like you test me, diary. But, whatever, my total bad. I can’t even stay mad at you, cause I’m totes excited!!!
Tonight is prom--and I actually found a date! Rashaun Thompson asked me 2 minutes ago, after he asked Tanya and Jesica. They were already going with people, and he sits at my table in math class, so he leaned over and asked me!
I’ve never even spoken to him, and when I said yes, I accidentally drooled a little—so embarrassing! But I don’t know if he noticed, cause he walked away really fast when his friends came in the room.

I don’t know what to wear. My mom said she wouldn’t buy me any new clothes until I lost 14 pounds, so I’m going to have to go with something old. I saw Pretty in Pink yesterday and think I should wear something pink, like Molly Ringwald—only it’ll look better on my ebony skin, I just know it.

Okay, diary, I have to tell you something. I’m a little nervous. This is my first boy-girl party, and it’s a dance, and it’s the end of 8th grade, AND I have a date—I feel like this is the night. I’m wondering if I should have sex with Rashaun.
What do you think?
I mean, I haven’t really spoken to him, but he’s fat like me, so I’m not as scared about being naked around him. And, like, I’ve seen the “What’s Happening to my Body?” video, so I know what will happen. I mean, he’ll put his p in my v and it will be like this explosion, and then we will get married!!!

How great would that be, diary?!

Ugh, I know what you’re thinking, diary, and I am NOT a slut. Fuck you, you’re just jealous cause you’re made of vinyl and won’t have sex with anyone ever, you lame d-bag. That means douche bag, diary! Yeah, you, you filthy—

The entry ends there. Who knows what else Sad Girl said to her diary in a fit of blind rage. I hope this girl is at prom. And that she wears something like this:

I plan on gathering all the pretty young ladies into the bathroom and showing them images of chlamydia-infected genitals, and then handing out NYC condoms in case my fear tactic fails. I will also tell them to listen to India.Aire for strength, courage, and wisdom, and bring a few 19th century novels to up their reading level.

PS: I am sad girl.