The gray day was spitting down in fits and starts, undecided whether to drench the whole day or drape the day over with a long, playful tease. My husband was hungry, and frankly I didn't feel up to post-church Sunday lunch duty.
"that market" we'd pass on the way home was the kind where samples lured in shoppers down each aisle -- from the produce section, to the deli's gourmet sausages and cheeses to the snack section, replete with gluten-free tortilla chips and freshly made salsa.
Sure. Let's do it. I said, knowing samples would be enough to stave off my husband's Hangries while I could shop for something more substantial for a proper lunch.
Can I help you find anything? No...we're okay right now.
Four steps toward the pineapple and fruit dip in the same aisle, when again: Are you finding everything okay?
Yes. I am. Thank you.
Before I knew it, my mind reflexively said Geez...Can he [my husband] just get in here already so they know I belong here?
Holycrap. I was actually hoping that my white-guy husband would come in to be my equivalent of "papers" that many black folks had to show to justify their very presence -- their right to just be in the space they were in. Where did that even come from?
In certain white spaces, brown skin is just too darned visible and takes that person with brown skin to some dark, reflexive, historical places within themselves.
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Okay, let's get this going before there's a long line: you want the shredded pork sandwich, you want the pork loin sandwich and I'm getting pork on a stick.
Okay, so we like pork. Especially at State Fair. It'd be sacrilege not start out the day there at The Pork Schoppe. (Yes, that's a thing.)
|It's a Thing|
I got in line, while my husband and daughter scampered to their assigned duties. Five people were ahead of me, and I felt good about that. After all that line can get to at least ten people deep.
The workers moved like a well-oiled machine and the line was moving at a good clip. As I imagined the joy of tearing into that pork on stick, people began to swarm, moving interchangeably toward the big menu board, sometimes ahead of me and then back to take their place in line or move on to another food stand.
However, when She moved ahead to see the menu, She stayed there. Right in front of me.
She was wearing jorts, and her freshly dyed burgundy hair was all business in front and all party in the back. Her skin was blessed by too many years of smoking and tanning beds along with too many of the sun's overzealous kisses.
But wait: She was still in front of me. Like, not moving: She. Skipped me. Maybe She didn't know.
She turned and looked me in the eye as she puffed on a newly lit cigarette.
Excuse me, I'm in line.
She immediately stepped behind me while indignantly shooting back: "Snobby-ass-bitch."
Ok, so evidently, I'm a Snobby-ass-bitch because I called her out for skipping me in line as she deprived my family and me of all the deliciousness that is The Pork Schoppe.
How dare I.
At any rate, our manic rush to order and the sauce and the napkins slowed down considerably; and we laughed about the absurdity of me, of all people -- a snobby-ass-bitch -- as we took our time to sauce our precious pork, gather enough napkins and walk verrry slowly away to savor our pork as she ordered hers.
In other spaces, brown skin is invisible. People won't offer courtesy when they choose not to see you. Sometimes, you have to take it.
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Anyone who is "other" is constantly navigating and policing themselves. Is it weird they keep badgering me when I clearly said I don't need help? Where is my husband with my papers?! Does he/she even see me standing here? I don't even have energy to make this right, but now I HAVE TO.
Too visible in certain spaces earns a person being followed in a retail establishment or unwanted attention that borders on harassment. See Starbucks.
That same brown skin in certain spaces renders "the other" invisible. See State Fair Smoker Lady who had to wait a tad longer for her pork sandwich than she would have had she not tried to skip ahead of me in line.
It's frustrating and draining when you live it; and, my hope was that my daughter wouldn't have to carry this around to the extent I have and continue to do. But even at her age, she's already experienced comments about her hair, remarks about "ghetto black girls," or peers who want to imitate a "a black guy's voice"...and tell her as much to her face.
We talk about it all, and she's navigating it very well. I'm proud of her.
But darned if I didn't want it to be something she'd have to learn.