I know lifting the phrase “to be or not to be” from Shakespeare and inserting one’s own word is highly clichéd, but go with me on this one.
Much of our image signifies who we are. Or rather, as I learned in one of my classes, it signifies who we be. We are human beings, not human doings. Often times we ask someone what do they do when we really want to know who they be. Sometimes we’re interested in who they are, past tense, but we’re much more interested in the present and our potential future with the person—hence, we really want to know who they be.
Our image is something that most of us address on a daily basis, minimally. There are those who pass by a mirror and stop to do a mirror-check every time they pass their reflection. We may opine that clothes don’t make the woman or man, but fact of the matter is that we want to project some sort of image toward the people we intend on encountering that day; that image is closely connected to who we be.
So, here at the internship….
I’m doing an internship at a church to be specific (and that’s about as specific as I’m going to get) and this church has a high senior citizen population, mostly retired and middle-class First Coasters (HAHAHA!! That is too funny to me hearing about this First Coast biz) and I arrived here on this previous Monday to 95 degree searing heat. The pastor wasn’t in so I was talking to the church’s secretary administrative assistant and she looked at me and said, “Now you know some o’ these folks gon’ look atchu sideways cuz of your earrangs.”
I raised my eyebrow and tried not to roll my eyes because I knew she was right. She went on to tell me just how messy the saints at this church could be. She informed me that she had been here now going on nine years and that still members would try and act shady with her. Even on Wednesday that pastor informed me that this was an ultra-conservative church **rolls eyes** and that some members were going to come to him about it and others might actually walk up to me and say something to me about them.
Seriously people are we really having the discussion about earrings in the ears of males in 2009? I mean I just sat in a meeting the past two days and two older males had their earrings pierced. Now one of them reminded me of Cedric the Entertainer and of course his earrings just added to his cool aura, like the cool godparent who does anything for you. Hell, Ed Bradley had an earring!! This “naïve transitivity” as Paulo Friere wrote, garners for change, but still is steeped in static conservatism that is nearly wholly ignorant of contemporary problems.
People are dying out in the streets and some have convinced themselves that me wearing earrings is the culprit. Well, not me per se, but I’m sure some of these people have somehow surmised in their minds that “when males started wearing earrings, we started going down a slippery slope to ______________” whatever they feel like inserting.
Now the pastor, to his credit did say that often in the minds of the elders that to them males wearing earrings meant either a) they were a rebel/bad boy or b) they were gay. Even I remember before the “Era of Bling” as we know it, in the early 90s most males only had one earring and one needed to know the following that “right is wrong and left is right.” That is to say that one earring in the left ear meant you were cool and one earring in the right ear meant you were gay. By the time I got to high school a few of the boys had one ear pierced and a good chunk had both of their ears pierced.
My mother told me that if I had gotten all As on my report car that I could have gotten my ears pierced—that never happened. So as a result I ended up waiting till my 18th birthday when I could legally do it by myself. I didn’t even go to the mall with the intent of getting them pierced, but it was my first mall experience with some friends down in New Orleans, and we went to Lakeside and I passed by a store doing it and I got em punched! I was only going to do one, but since they had to sell me the set I went ahead and got both of them done.
Weirdly enough now, I’ve had my ears pierced for going on seven years now, and generally I wear smallish medium studs. But, after living down south, I had been buying the bigger ones simply because it’s the style down south to have, as my friend Supreme Uppity says “some chandeliers” attached to the ears. I even bought some blue tinted ones to match this blue tie that I have.
Doubt I’ll be wearing those this summer.
Granted the earrings are not the sum total of who I be, but dammit it is a part of me. Just like my hair, just like the fact that I may sag my pants a bit or the fact that I have a brohawk mohawk. They all associate me with my culture and my generation. Much the same way that half of these women who walked in here have a friggin’ jheri curl.
**The Sunny Seniors are having a banquet as I type this and the lady on the microphone just gave an announcement on how to get the grease stains out of your pillowcases**
I mean, jheri curls are no more cultural signifiers of the 70s and the 80s than me wearing a Mohawk or getting designs cut into my fade.
The problem arises because people can’t see past it to hear or accept what I have to offer. Sadly we live in a conformist society, one that does more often than not subscribes to an uncritical consciousness and makes the wearing of earrings my problem and they refuse to own it as a hangup of their own.
For example, when I got my ears pierced and got off the Amtrak after my first semester away, my mother forced herself to say “Oh, I figured that.” I really didn’t know what she was talking about at first because they had become such a part of me and then I was like “Oh” after I forced a wan smile. My aunt did the same thing, but even worse at Christmas. She said “I know you want me to make a comment about those, but I’m not.” Even her grown kids laughed under their breath, because in fact she had made a comment and I wasn’t even trying, but apparently I had been flaunting them in her face trying to force a comment. Or even my mother somehow making a comment about how she didn’t like my hair—meaning my hawk.
Frankly, stuff like that, I don’t see why folks feel they have to make a comment.
To be fair to my mother though, I did actually ask her point-blank “So you don’t like my hair?” and she answered honestly.
But my relatives aside, what would your response be to these fine members of this church?
Keep it uppity and keep it truthfully radical, JLL