17 January 2007

You People Are All Alike!!

Word to the wise: Don't ever say that to a black person. Okay, you can say it if you want. But it would be a good idea to take off running once "you people" slips out before your brain can stop your mouth from opening.

With that said, we must be somewhat alike since both Slowpolk and I took pictures of our feet/shoes.
I still have before and after pictures that I took while I was in high school, pictures of my feet in red slip-on Vans. The first picture is the "before". The shoes are in pristine condition. The second picture is the "after". The shoes are completely shredded from skateboarding. For some reason, those pictures are symbolic. I'm not sure what they symbolize, but they're the reason why I took a picture—decades later—of my feet in Vans.

Back in the day, "the day" being the late 1970's, you never saw black kids in Vans. Well, maybe you saw a few (me being one of them). I wore Vans all the time. I liked them. I still like them. (What I don't like now is the price.) When I was a teenager, there was little mixing of white culture and black culture. I realize now, as an adult who understands American social history, why that was. This cultural polarization made my life rather difficult though. I was a kid who couldn't fit in. I've never been one to conform. Now I simply don't bother to try. When I was a teenager, I often tried to conform to the norms of the day. My attempts never lasted long. Even then, I wanted to do what I wanted to do. Damn the critics. And there were a lot of them. Black folks were one way. White folks were another way. Black folks did this. White folks did that. You stay on your side. I'll stay on my side. And everyone is happy. Well, I wanted to skate. I wanted to surf. I wanted to wear jeans every day. I wanted to listen to rock in addition to funk. And frankly, black kids didn't do a lot of that. What made it even worse was the fact that I was unapologetically athletic at a time when sports-minded girls were still called "tomboys" and assumed to be gay. Damn it was hard to be me back then.

It's not hard to be me anymore. Does the word "tomboy" still exist? Now people compliment me for being so devoted to exercise. It makes me laugh. I was given shit for it, by both other kids and adults, back then. But how many women over 40 can say they're the same size they were 20 years ago? As for my shoes, I've been back in Vans for awhile. I guess they're "in" as I see teens of all races wearing them. These days, I'm complimented on my footwear by black kids who may not realize I'm old enough to be their mom. They may even be the kids of the people who criticized me when I was growing up. (I still live in the neighborhood in which I was born and raised.) Vans will always be more than just shoes to me. I wonder if I can get a pair of custom Vans emblazoned with the word "rebel"?


At 1/18/07, 2:22 PM, Anonymous dgm said...

yes! you can customize vans slip-ons and old skools. (i'd provide the link but i'm having trouble pulling it up.)

this post speaks to me for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was that for a long time i was a minority in southern virginia, and a shrimpy tomboy to boot. it never occurred to me that i shouldn't do certain things because of my race or gender, and i think that's what allowed me to get away with it. i just didn't care what other people thought of my interests, and my parents supported me in that they never tried to redirect me into things that others might have found more appropriate. (well, when my mom used to try to make me wear dresses.)

even now, in my early 40s, i'm sometimes the only woman in the free weight area at my gym. other women will sometimes ask how i manage to not be self-conscious about this and my response is pretty much the same as ever: i don't obsess about what others think of my interests. i'm not hurting anyone.

and i still wear slip-ons, too. :-)

At 1/18/07, 5:51 PM, Blogger Surfsister said...

It's funny because I wear skirts almost every day now. But you had to practically hold me down to get me in one when I was a teenager. I think the beauty of being this age and still athletic is that I'm not trying to find myself. I found myself a long time ago and I've stayed true to myself. There are so many women now who desperately want to have fun. Sports is and was always a way to do that. Thank goodness our generation, the first to truly benefit from Title IX, had the law on our side.

At 1/18/07, 7:11 PM, Blogger SlowPolk said...

Back in the day I use get beat down for doing what came natural for me, so I still have a chip on my shoulder about being told how or what to do.

Imagine going to the beach and seeing someone surfing for the first time. Wouldn't you want to try it because it looked like fun?
What could be more simple or natural. It looks like fun I want to try it. Sorry Mr. SlowPolk the folks in hood can't allow you to surf, or play tennis or get a degree in Math and so on because it just ain't right. Feels pretty right to me, I not trying to be a rebel I just doing what seems interesting.

Nice shoes, by the way :-)

At 1/18/07, 9:15 PM, Blogger Paula the Surf Mom said...

I learned all I ever needed to know on this subject from doctor seuss

Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind


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