I was just texting with my cousin Candy last night we had a good laugh reminiscing about the good ole days and she was the one that still had the ticket from the RUN DMC concert I spoke about previously. I told her how cool I thought she was when we were growing up and she truly was. She looked a lot like Peppa, from Salt N Peppa, she had the clothes on point, she had the bamboo earrings, and she had the most glorious stacks! Stacks were a hair style from the late 80s and early 90s and if your stacks were on point it could totally change your young life. It sounds crazy right that a hair style could have such a big impact on one’s life but it’s true!  As we talked she mentioned how when she transitioned from getting her hair done in the kitchen to actually going to a real shop she got her first boyfriend!! We laughed but she said, “it was like magic”. One day she was just regular old Candy, and nobody was checking for her but the day she her stacks got done right “it was on and poppin!” I totally knew what she was talking about, I had friends, but our lack of popularity had a lot to do with our swag. Most of us were still getting our hair done at home. We didn’t really get our nails done, and while we might have had a couple of pieces of popular gear our wardrobe was not up to par, at all. Shoot, a lot of my clothes came from thrift stores, I would put together some eclectic stuff a blazer with a few broches and a derby or a fedora hat that I had found on a dusty shelf and try to make it into some Lisa Bonet cool ensemble. I never quite mastered the look, but I was close. In my neighborhood that was not the style of the popular kids, the popular kids wore expensive jeans that had a specific pocket design or an urban look like, Guess, Cross Colors, Used, or Damaged jeans, all of which were well outside of my range. I really thought that if I could just look like all the cool kids then I would be cool too, but for that needed money and so I got my first job the summer before I went to tenth grade.

9th grade me

I got a workers permit and got hired as a maid at Howard Johnson’s I earned $3.25 an hour but if I remember correctly it got bumped to $3.75 not long after I was hired! That summer I worked as many hours as I possibly could, cleaning up behind families passing through, vomiting party goers, and ranchy sexual trysts, as quickly as possible while singing along to 80s soft rock that played on the hotel station. I worked almost every day and saved as much as I could, I had to pay a bill at the house, I don’t remember what I had to pay but I remember being agitated that I had to pay it. Even with paying money to my mom I was still able to stock pile a nice lump sum of money by the end of summer. I remember my sister and I catching the bus to Northwest Plaza to go school shopping. I bought her a few things, but I was the happiest about the fact that I could get her a pair of L.A. Gear boots, with the two sets of shoe strings. One set of shoe strings were white the others were pink and glittery. They were huge, they looked like hound dog ears hanging on each side of her little feet. Got a couple things for my bro But I got myself my first pair of damaged overall bibs, some guess jeans, blue suede L.A. gear boots, some high-top Air Max, and a few other things. I felt like this was going to be my year, like I was going to officially be cool! I started going to the shop not far from my house to get my hair done and eventually started getting my nails done too. I had all the stuff, stacks included, and it was like my cousin said folks started checking for me immediately. I caught the attention of a few boys, one of the super popular boys was a boy name Van. He lived in Chocolate City, the apartment complex in Meacham park that happen to be chocolate in color and was inhabited by all chocolate folks.  I wasn’t supposed to be in Chocolate City but my mom was never home anymore, so I made my own decisions. I would go over and hang out in front of my friend’s apartment, this was one of those apartment complexes that would qualify as the projects, but it was smaller in scale. There was always something going on, drugs being sold (crack had hit by then), music, kids playing, fights, and just whatever folks could come up with. Van was older, super cool, and way out of my league. Everybody knew him and to be noticed by him made me feel special. I believed we talked a bit a few times and kissed but nothing more. I wasn’t ready for sex. I had to look after my sister and brother and didn’t want to risk getting caught by my mom in Chocolate City, and so he moved on to other girls. 

When School started my sophomore year, I was ready! I just knew that I was going to be popular that year I had all the clothes accessories and hair! I was getting noticed and felt a bit more confident, but it wouldn’t last long. One day on the way home, I had sat next to this kid, he was so fine. He looked like Kid from Kid and Play but cuter!  Immediately, folks started making comments about him liking me to which his response was a loud and resounding “I don’t like this girl!!”.  After that, he would make fun of me in the hall from time to time nothing major just commenting on how I had finally gotten new clothes, or my hair done or whatever. It was enough for me to be reminded that I wasn’t cool that I was just faking it, trying to fit in, and I retreated back to where I belonged.

Shortly after this incident, I was walking home one day and ran into this neighborhood kid named Mike, he too was older and a car. He asked if I wanted a ride home I said sure. And that’s how he became my boyfriend. Having a boyfriend with my mom absent more frequently meant that I was hanging out with him a lot kissing and messing around with him a lot lot. Eventually we decided that I would skip school and come to his place and that that would be THE day!  I was so nervous, he picked me up that morning and gave me some flowers, we went to eat, and then headed back to his place. We went to his room and he put on Keith Sweat’s Make it Last Forever album, he was actually really nice and kept asking if I was ok, I lied and said I was fine when I was actually really nervous and scared. We kissed, and he began touching me and saying things like he loved me, and I was so pretty, and this was going to make us so close. At some point just as he was about to, and I started crying, he stopped. I told him that I was sorry and that I had to go home. To his credit, I really do think he cared about me he never complained. He was really kind, he said he understood, and that he still loved me and wanted to be with me. Unfortunately, I didn’t love him, and I felt ashamed of myself. When I got home, I think I stayed in the shower for over two hours, getting out just a little before my sister and brother got home from school. That night my mom actually came home (she had been gone for a few days) and I was so nervous I just knew she would know what I had done! She didn’t notice anything, and I didn’t say anything she ate and stumbled into her room telling us to be quiet because she was sick of all the noise and need some rest. 

Even though we never actually had sex, I still count this as my first time. Mike called me every day and try to talk or see me, but I would avoid him every time. I would never see or talk to him again. I wasn’t mad at him, but I was angry with myself. I didn’t feel anything for him it really did not matter to me that things ended. He came by my house one night late, a long time after our near miss beating on the door and I can’t remember if I wasn’t home or if I just didn’t open the door either way I didn’t see him that night.  Later that night he was killed in a shooting at his house. I remember being so shocked, but I don’t remember crying or attending his funeral.  My sister has always said that I have a switch that allowed me to completely disconnect, whenever I would decide that I was done with a situation the switch is off and it would be as if the person never existed. It really wasn’t a switch but instead more of a black box that I stored unwanted memories and people in. While in the box they were ALMOST forgotten. The black box wasn’t the same as the singularity, I could pull things back from the box, if I wanted. This was a mechanism I used and reused throughout my life as a way to prevent myself from falling into the abyss of my emotions and feelings. If things got to be too much I would just turn that shit off!  I could not control much in my life at that time, but I could control me, my emotions, my feelings and my visible reactions. The saddest realization is that you can’t selectively turn off your feelings and emotions, only getting rid of what you don’t want.  When I began to practice controlling and turning down the volume on my emotions that attenuated my ability to experience positive emotions as well.  Unfortunately, this was a lesson that I would not learn for years to come. 

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