WE ARE: 5 women navigating our twenties in search of peace, happiness and love (or not). WE WRITE: about everything and nothing. From the insane to the mundane- you will find different paths taken, lessons learned and lives lived. WE THINK: you’ll enjoy it...Warning: Consumption of these views may leave you enlightened while intoxicated.


The View From Here will conclude on Friday, October 1, our third year anniversary. We would like to spend this month thanking all of our readers, followers, haters, visitors, family, friends, and fans for your continued support, encouragement, and comments over these past few years. Thanks y'all!
-The Five Spot

Friday, March 7, 2008

Wearing The Mask

Can someone please tell me how our ancestors were able to shuck and jive for white people on a daily basis? How they were able to give the illusion that they cared about Ms. Ann’s prolonged illness or Mr. Charlie’s dilemmas? Because I gotta tell you that this daily tap dance is getting harder and harder. I just don't know how much longer I can smile and nod and laugh at any more at these people’s aka my co-worker’s “jokes.” My jaw is starting to hurt...

First things first, I suck at idle chit chat (in general), the kind that you have with strangers sitting next to you on a plane, or banal banter with co-workers about the weather, your weekend, blah, blah, blah. I’m not one of those people who can just share who I am on a whim; pour out my life story in a two hour flight to Atlanta. And honestly, I don’t really care to hear the details of people’s personal lives. And yet somehow, there is something about my face, my charming personality that compels people to tell me all their business. And I get the feeling that they expect reciprocation…And dang it if they don’t keep prodding to get some kind of information from you…

At my last job, I worked at a small company where the majority of us were female, “minorities” and under 30. So a typical conversation usually went like this: “girl, come take a look at my myspace page…You see him, I used to mess with him at [Enter Your Favorite HBCU Here]…” I could handle that. We could bond over what spot we went to that weekend, the fact that we were working for a crazy person, dating drama…you know, anything you can find in a single girl’s handbook. And over a prolonged period of time, genuine friendships were made.

But now, I work with all white people who are married with kids, (or have significant others that they just have to talk about) and I have to hear about a sick baby, or a house remodeling project, or breast feeding/pumping issues (yes, why must I know this), or a home being taken over by critters, or that they had the most boring weekend ever, because once you have kids it’s all downhill after that. And I have to smile and nod, laugh at the appropriate places, volley a joke or a comment back to them, to keep this banter game going…And then they hit you with: So how was your weekend?

Le sigh and le groan. Oh how I wanna say, do you really wanna know white person? Do you really want me to share with you that for my homegirl’s birthday we went to see a contemporary go go band and that I got drunk as hell, or that I went to a Katt Williams show or a Jill Scott performance, or that I watched On Demand all Saturday and had my own The Wire marathon, or that I’m taking a writing class, trying to write a novel so that I never have to work for the man again? Because I really don’t feel like breaking some things down for you, having to explain to your blank stares when I mention an aspect from my life that you’ve never heard of or can’t relate to. Or coming to the mutual realization that we really have nothing in common. And I don’t appreciate that I tell one of y’all one simple, meaningless thing and the next thing I know the whole office knows! And yet you want me to bare my soul? Yeah, I’m not trying to give y’all any ‘did you hear the latest news about Rum Punch’ lunch time discussion fodder. And how the hell do I end up in y’alls conversations anyway?

Every time my co-workers come to me, asking me a personal question, I get this sense that they feel that it’s their mission to crack the Rum Punch code. And I give them just enough to quench their thirst, all the time remembering my mama taught me not to tell all my business to people, especially them. And I find myself walking that fine line that our people have had to walk for generations: being entertaining, giving up just enough information to keep them at bay, being a concerned listener, smiling hard so the mask doesn’t break…All the while trying to maintain my own sanity and peace of mind and wishing they would get the hell outta my office….

I can recall before I traveled abroad, the coordinator explaining to us that many foreigners weren’t as friendly as Americans, in the sense that they didn’t “believe” in instantaneous friendships, but thought they should develop in a more gradual manner. So when I got to Paris, it didn’t bother me that everyone didn’t smile at each other or start up random conversations on the train. I rather enjoyed it. Because in reality you can’t be friends with everybody, and definitely not in the first five minutes. You don’t need to learn all the details about someone’s life for your own personal pleasure or satisfaction. And just because we spend 8 hours together does not mean that I have to provide you with my family history and constantly share my hopes, feelings and darkest fears. But that’s not the reality I’m dealing with.

I am dealing with folk who get upset when I don’t come visit them for a daily chat, who want to see my face more, who want me to tell them some more stories so they can “figure me out.” So everyday, I have to pick a time to make my rounds and visit my co-workers, to appease them, to not appear like the anti-social Black person, to allay their ‘does she like us’ concerns, to make them feel good about themselves. It’s a struggle for me because I know that it’s disingenuous on both parts…let’s not play ourselves… But I also know that this is how the game is played. So with a sigh in my soul, I grin and bear it and put on my mask. But um, it’s starting to crack…

That’s my time y’all! Happy Rum Punch Friday!


Torrance Stephens bka All-Mi-T said...

my granny taught me to always let other under estimate u and u will end up on top

Bellini said...

good stuff!
It's funny 'cuz I remember when I went to Budapest and Eastern Europeans were hard-pressed to find out who I was & what I was doing on that side of the world -- as if black folks can't be involved in international politics. I always wondered if the Indian (from the continent India) girl felt the same way 'cuz we were the only 2 people of color, but somehow I doubt it. Considering she was from Seattle (her dad worked for Microsoft) she had assimilated to white folks since birth-- she felt at home with them and couldn't relate to another person of color at all.

*B* Fab said...

wow, well I'd ask if you worked where I work, but being the only monority chick, under 30, not wifed up(literally or figuratively), no kids I'd know if you worked here too! lol! The conversations these people have crack me up! If not for IM I'd have noone to tell them to! I sit here laughing b/c these people's lives are SOO funny! they worry about the DUMBEST things and bond over the WEIRDEST things! I'll never get YT old ladies - they talk about some WEIRD shyt!

I'm laughing at the go-go line because of how many HOURS you would have had to explain to them what go-go is...lol!

Have a fab weekend!

Danielle said...

Tell it! I don't believe that anyone ahs the right to know my business because they've chosend to discuss their own.

I'm reserved by nature. I smile and I am pleasant and cordial, but I have no interest in white folks business.

I'm working my way into being my own boss because I'm done w/the corporate world. the older I get, the more impatient I am with people's nonsense.

Anonymous said...

That's some real talk right there. That's my life all day everyday in Corporate America.

Fabulous post!

Tiffany In Houston

Ms. Devereaux said...

I know what you are talking about. I was having this conversation with my cousin recently. I hated the daily routine at my last job. Like yourself I don't plan on working for the man long.

The worst conversations are the elevator rides. How many times can you talk about weather , sports, and new baby stuff...shoot me please...lol

Love the post!!!

Rum Punch said...

@ everyone - Thanks for the kind words!

@ *b* fab - LOL @ explaining go-go! Talk about it! I know their eyes would start to glaze over once I say, "and then you have the cowbells..."

@ Danielle - "I'm reserved by nature. I smile and I am pleasant and cordial, but I have no interest in white folks business."
Yes, that's pretty much how I feel about the whole situation. I feel you on being your own boss! It's the only way to go.

@anonymous/Tiffany in Houston - Welcome! And thanks! Please join us again...

@ms. devereaux - Well luckily I work on the 2nd floor, so we might get as far as "how do you do" and then the doors open and I'm at my floor! How do you spell reliev? :-)