As a socially isolated Black woman, I did what most lonely children do and looked to books. For a country that has a widely diverse minority community, its media is predominately white. Coupled with parents that would rather brag about their children than raise them, acquiring access to black authors was not going to happen.
My home was not keen on reading as I was. My parents were more focused on the quick come up or side hustle. Not something my pre-teen self could contribute to with a mom that was determined that I not work until I was twenty-one. But one thing that stuck out as I acquired a vocabulary that failed to reflect my society, was the oreo slur that was splashed upon me.
I can’t recall the first time this title was bestowed upon me;but, instead of shunning it- being a popular sandwich cookie that was rather tasty- I dove in. After all, if I am a cookie, at least I will be a delicious one. It was a racist taunt intent to cause harm. I opted to sidestep the bait and let it dissipate. Takes the sting out of things.
I actively looked for White friends as, based on the slurs attached to me, I supposedly emulated White people. And you know what, they are a rarity in a predominately Black community. By the time I hit middle school, I had found three: the Jewish vegan, Cynthia of Poland, and Carmen of fifth grade. I fail to understand how I was an oreo when there were no White people around to compare me to.
Let’s talk about Cynthia first. She was tall, brown hair, and a pert nose that I liked. We fancied the same boy for a while until she caught his attention. And for our tenuous relationship, I was blindly jealous. She called me on it but for the wrong reasons. She claimed that it was because she got him when it was because I couldn’t have her for me. It was the first time I wanted a female lover. I think I wanted both of them. It was a revelation that could wait for another essay.
But that relationship came and went as she moved. I had to find a new friend. Enter Carmen, an odd girl that came from across the park. She was the second person to invite me over without my mother needing to arrange it. It was amazing. I had someone to call on the phone and talk to me. Even if I did all the calling. She responded. That was enough for me. I enjoyed that she came to my sole sleepover birthday party. She gave me a perfume and a Dover Illustrated Classic of the Wizard of Oz. She was my best friend for a year.
Then she moved on to middle school and stopped taking my phone calls.
I figured she would return to accepting my friendship when shared the same halls again. She has been there for a year and will guide me through the new hallways and invite me into her social circle. She would be a friend while I adjusted. It would be cool. I would be able to avoid the trauma of my home life falling apart. Because the summer before my sixth-grade year, my parents separated. And there was not enough money for school shopping. Surely, Carmen would still like me.
She passed me by in the hallway.
Little did I know that she had made friends she likes so she did not require my youthful companionship. My use was done. She did not know how to say stop calling. She let her mother do the unpleasant work of saying she was not available. My mom said,
“If you are the one calling, what does that tell you?”
I was alone trying to get alone in a new school with people that wanted to show off their shit. No one wanted to write or dream about a better place unless it was one-upping the dream life projection.
Middle school sucks.
I really missed being able to play with my Barbies during that period. I hated the severe judgment people gave about ideas they did not understand. In that environment, I learned sharing your ideas was not in your best interest. At least not ones that are close to your heart. So I turned to my mother thinking, maybe she would like me. One girl in my class mentioned that her mom was her best friend.
After a week of trying and my mom called me boring. And I said well fuck that. If I am going to be boring even to my family, I am going to be boring with me. It was the first time I stopped letting shame and fear of rejection hurt me.
Thank the gods for libraries as I came across Wilos Robert’s Don’t Hurt Laurie. My return to books was comforting. I began to journal again and started to embrace being the outcast. It was available and I had no other outlet. For a while, I enjoyed journaling. Until people wanted to read it. Like my minor thoughts were an inside to me. My mother was one of four to violate my journals. I had one stolen because it was a Trapper Keeper, one read in class, and an aunt who asked. I got tired of that.
I don’t understand why people violate journals. I am right here. Ask me about myself. You don’t need to be inside my process when you can barely talk to me. With all that erratic interest in attempts to know me, I stopped writing and journaling. It was a mixed blessing. No one asked the wrong questions based on snippets of information. I lost the habit of writing. Far from a win/win.
This is the year I will return to it.