A few weeks ago I went to Vermont with a friend of mine and her husband. They’d invited a bunch of other people because the husband who I’ll call, um “hubby” rents a house every year and goes skiing. My friend who I’ll call “friendo” doesn’t ski, so she wanted someone to hang with while everyone else skied.
So we drive up the 5h and it’s snowing and what I’ve heard people call “beautiful” and I call cold and snowy. I’m from Chicago. I’ve skied the French Swiss Alps. Vermont was cold and snowy. So I’m the chocolate in the vanilla once again and I’ve got to say I’m sick of it. I know, I know, we live in a post-racial world. My ass. So I’m up there surrounded by white- in a fur coat and sorrel boots. Everyone has on snow pants and I feel like the poor kid who’s mom sent them out without the right gear.
When I went to France I was 12 and it was a bunch of rich black kids from the Southside of Chicago. I obviously slid in under the radar, but my mom was always good about making sure I had tons of exposure to everything. (Probably to too many things, but that’s for a different day.) My mom was absent while I was getting ready for my trip, working on the railroad or smoking coke in LA, who knows. My dad had taken me to get my ski jacket. My granny got me my ski pants and luggage. And boots.
It was January 1986 and everybody who was anybody had moonboots. And remember, they were rich so they had extras. My granny (great grandmother) was born in 1917 on a Gullah island and raised in Mississippi until she married my granddad in 1932 2 months pregnant. Right, do the math. She didn’t know or care about a moon boot. The baby was going skiing and needed to be warm so she got my boots. They were a Christmas present (like everything else I got for the trip- except my Mr. Microphone) and so I had to pretend like I liked them while secretly plotting to leave them there and make my mom send me money to buy some in France.
To me they were the epitome of my particular social status. They were grey, quilted WEDGES!!! Wedges. In the 80’s. She might as well had sent me out in bell-bottoms. I wore bangles up my arm and wore hot pink lace headbands like Madonna in the holiday video. I tied bandanas around my knees like ozone and turbo in breakin’ (the original because the only good thing I can say about 2 is din da da). I was hip and cool and these would be the only boots I would have to represent my hipness and coolness to the French. So I wouldn’t wear them. Up to my knees in snow and I just wouldn’t. It worked most of the time, because we mostly wore our ski boots, but one day it went terribly wrong.
We had to go to town at the crack of dawn to watch a local baker make the bread we ate everyday. I put on my penny loafers (remember I’m cool- Michael Jackson wore them and nothing was cooler than that) fully expecting to jump in a van and go down the mountain. No, no grasshopper. We walked. By the time we’d gotten a few feet from the chalet I realized I was in trouble. There was already snow in my socks and we had another mile or so to go. And did I mention it was early? Dawn was just breaking when we left and in the Alps, it’s cold at dawn in January. But my penny loafers weren’t cutting it. And I felt stupid and inadequate and ill prepared. It also didn’t help that my best friend said, “I don’t know why you didn’t just wear your boots”. Because they make me stand out and look weirder than I already do. Because I haven’t been taught that being different is okay. Because I want to just fit in and not think about the fact that no one in my family has bothered to write, let alone send gift baskets while I’ve been away for a month. I don’t want to think about the fact that I hate these boots my granny who’s at home dying bought me. I want to be a normal girl with normal problems. Which brings me to Vermont.
I always feel a little off, especially when I’m in a new situation with strangers. Especially when I’m the only not skinny not white single girl in the room. Especially when the guy my friendo told me I’d be interested in is a fat pasty thing- who’s not interested in me. And when it appears all of these people know each other but I don’t know any of them. I think their conversation is inane and there’s one girl in particular who’s doing that white girl attention getting thing that drives me crazy. She’s too loud, too silly, too showoffy. Maybe I’m just sensitive, but I decided I don’t care for her. I’m the wild card in so many ways. And I’m not wearing the right gear. There’s a button missing off of my fur coat. I’m the only girl who smokes. I’d rather sit in the cabin than go hiking. (I don’t get hiking. where are we going?) I’m not going hiking and it’s not because I’m afraid I’m going to get winded like I did on our walk after smoking like 5 cigs in a row and I thought we were just going out for a minute not an hour and my boots weigh 20lbs each. So enjoy your hike. I’m making myself a cocktail.
Then the dog ran out. This pampered mutt had hurt its ass and was left home. Flappy. Flapjack. Flappy the dog. So I go out for a smoke, it’s whining, I let it out to pee or whatever cause I don’t really fuck with dogs like that to know what his problem is. And this little mutha fucka won’t go back in- FOR AN HOUR. Not only that, he’s growling at me and keeps trying to run up the driveway to the road. Hubby had already stated that if anything happens to the dog he’s going to kill himself and I believe him. He makes his food from scratch. He cooks chicken and makes the dogs food and my friendo hand feeds the fucking dog. Can you believe that? So here I am rationalizing with a dog that lives better than I do and it all comes rushing at me.
I’m 12 years old and just want to fit in. I just want to not be broke and unemployed, praying to get the writing fellowship in England, hoping to get some writing done between drinking wine and taking a sauna. I don’t want my belly to hang over my jeans and I want to smell good. I don’t want to be as hungry as I am or as lonely. Everyone else seems to be having a grand time. I just want to read. I’m not outdoorsy. Maybe that’s why I’m fat. I don’t want to engage these people I’m never going to see again. I have too many people in my life I want to engage but can’t because of various social anxiety disorders. This dog can’t get hit by a car or freeze to death on my watch. I’m not socially or emotionally equipped to deal with that. So after I’d decided to throw my hat over the dog’s head and Drop Squad him back into the house, I just started laughing. Fuck this shit.
Later when I was recounting the story and telling the group how I’d gotten the fucking dog (mindful to be respectful of this bratty pooch) into the house by crouching down and admitting defeat, I realized I didn’t give a fuck about these people or what they thought of me. Sure they have not only jobs, but careers. And I’m a writer. What have you written? Nothing you would have seen. Really? Yeah, it’s about blacks. That shuts them up. And I was free.
We went watch the Superbowl at a bar/ restaurant and I ordered the steak and had several cocktails. The one girl I didn’t care for was freaking out about eating veggies and hubby snapped at her and then she got all solemn and weird. Another couple’s car kept breaking down and that was the most henpecked husband I’d ever seen in my life. He looked miserable all the time. I had no money. I didn’t care. They were all rich. I paid what I could and fuck it. I felt great. I talked to everyone I met outside while I was having cigs and between being drunk was also high as a kite in a town where I was the only black I’d seen. By the time we left, the snow was already black with grime, everything was melting because it was like 50 degrees that day and on the way out… everything was beautiful.