I’m going to use today’s blog to help me start making a skeleton non-fiction book idea I’ve been toying with writing. This book is going to be based on my girlfriends I’ve met in my life and what influences they’ve had on me. I’ve come to the realization that people are placed in your path for a reason and while you may not know the reason immediately, through time and wisdom, you soon learn.
As I think of writing these stories, it has occurred to me that the skeleton will be too long to put into one blog…mostly because of the history that I have to include with it so I think I’ll make it a couple of blogs over time. I want to preface these stories as not being any family members because my family, in my opinion, is pretty great as it is and would take up pages and pages of history alone. Also the names have been changed for privacy. These women have had such a profound impression in my life I can only hope to do justice to them as I pay homage to our friendship.
I feel the need to provide a bit of history about myself here to help try and relate who I am and where I’ve come from. I have been trying to explain certain aspects of me to people for years and I never seem to explain it so that people actually “get it” but I will try again, here. I know that part of the problem is that I can’t fully explain what I know about myself in one sitting and I doubt I understand all of the psychological ramifications that play into me. Therefore, expecting anyone to “get me” in such a short time frame is probably unfair. But, wouldn’t it be great if that happened?
I was born black. There was a time later in life when I was only part black (my personal identity crisis. Let me tell you, right now, that I know that statement in and of itself is going piss off a lot of people) and as I approach middle age, I find myself becoming black again. You can’t escape who you are. I’m learning to identify myself and I hate when others try to identify me and get it wrong. This self identity process is helped through my friendships over the years.
I was born on the South Side of Chicago, to very young parents. Chicagoland is a very ethnically segregated city. Parts of it is predominantly, Italian, or Polish, Black, White, and Asian and so on. Part of the south side is predominantly black. When I was 11 years old, my mom moved my sister and me from Chicago to the Western Suburbs of Chicago and let me tell you, that my world was forever changed. Not because of my separation from my aunts, uncles and cousins but because of the new exposures in front of me. I had always been congenial, made friends no matter where but at that age, I rarely saw people that looked like me. My new world was predominantly Caucasians who spoke very unlike me.
I laugh to myself as I remember starting my new school in Glen Ellyn, IL and being the only black person in my classroom. I looked around at all of my classmates and wondered, “How am I ever going to remember their names? They all kind of look alike. Not brown skin, not brown eyed not black hair. Oy! Over time, I soon discovered that “Hey, I can figure this out. Some of my classmates had blonde hair; some were red hair and some brunette. To further help, blue eyes, green eyes, brown eyes and sometimes a combination of all of the colors. I can do this.” Slowly, my speech patterned started to chain to “fit” more in. I confess, I still struggle with that some times.
None the less, I was beginning to “fit it” and I was enjoying my new friendships. Unfortunately, whenever I went back home to hang out with the cousins, who were more like sisters and brothers, it was always pointed out how different I was. The comments were probably made innocently but they pointed out “that one of these things is not like the other” scenario. One of my cousins mocked me by saying, “Listen to you, sounding all proper and everything.” The thing about that though is that I hadn’t realized I sounded different. Therefore, I became very self conscious about talking to my family back home. I had one cousin who seemed to accept me for everything I was and everything I was becoming and I appreciate her for that. That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate my other cousins and family members but their innocent comments and actions began my identity crisis. I no longer “fit in” with my peeps from back home and I didn’t really fit in with my new surroundings.
I loved both places.
Tiffany, while fun to hang out with, if you could follow her mile a minute conversations, she was not always easy for other people to relate to. Because of her exposures to the upper class of African America society, through her I was introduced and invited to attend an African American Cotillion; Debutante Balls (coming out to society) that Tiffany was in, also to a group called Jack and Jill Organization. Tiffany invited me to several of these functions and without her, I wouldn’t have had an idea they even existed. She did not complete her Senior year in our high school, rather than elected to enter a college program at the Hampton Institute Virginia. A historically black college and it was there that she had accomplished all that she had said she would at age 14 years. The thing, however, is that Tiffany went away as someone I knew fairly well and came back as this rather black militant persona. When I introduced her to my then boyfriend, she said afterwards to me, “I just don’t understand why you couldn’t find someone black to date. There are a lot of black men who are available.” Sadly, that kind of set our friendship back a step because that guy, I had been dating, eventually became my husband, best friend and father to our three sons. Love doesn’t come in colors-it just comes.