They watched me dancing on a table at work with my shirt rolled up and fixed in a way that resembled a drunken belly dancer as I gyrated haphazardly on the 3’x4’ desktop.
Some watched in horror. Some watched in stunned amazement. Some simply left the room shaking their head disapprovingly (read-disgust). But a few almost pissed their pants laughing.
I fed off their roars of laughter.
Whether they were laughing with me or at me did not matter. It was fun and it was, and is, the kind of person I am now. I never cared what people thought of me and was taught from an early age to simply be me. Am I a non-conformist? Not at all. To me, that suggests a person that strives to be different from everyone else just to stand out as an individual. While being a non-conformist has probably brought out useful approaches to old ideas, it is not me.
I follow my heart when it comes to living, so whether my actions fit in with what a majority deems acceptable, I don’t care.
I do understand that there are things you just don’t do out of respect for a person or group and is part of living in any society. Then there are those things that are just plain bad taste such as crop dusting friends, family or strangers (the art of walking past people while simultaneously reliving your flatulence). Funny to see the twisted “what is that smell?” look on the face of your target, especially if your particularly ripe that day, but probably not the most socially mature thing to do.
About an hour after I had finished my impromptu dance episode, I headed to lunch with a couple co-workers that I was also friends with. Both male, both black and neither had stuck around to the end of my dance show. One of the guys named Gary was particularly put off by my display. He was from Atlanta. He always dressed with the latest fashion trend in mind and smelled of cologne, cocoa butter and perfumed body soap. He was smooth in demeanor and pretty popular with the ladies. To him, I was an abomination; an embarrassment to him, myself and most importantly, my race.
As we sat down with our food, Gary looked me square in the eye.
“Give it to me right now,” he said calmly.
Perplexed, I asked “give you what?”
“Your brother card,” as he held out his hand with anticipation.
“My brother card!? When did I get one of those because I never applied for it,” I said quick and defiantly in reply. I asked if maybe I need to call identity theft about the matter.
“You know what I mean, that crap you were doing earlier on your desk, black people don’t do that kind of thing,” Gary said with a look that a parent would give a child that has done something wrong.
Wow, so there is a special code of behavior that I was supposed to adhere to simply because I was black. Who knew? Apparently not I. As lunch went on, Gary brought to my attention numerous other things I would do to warrant me turning in my “card” from the type of car I drove to the type of music I listened to. Part of what he said to me was in jest, but there was a distinct undercurrent of seriousness to what he said.
“Who are you anyway to have the power to revoke this esteemed and elusive card,” I said to him.
As our conversation progressed, I became increasingly annoyed. It was almost like he and our other co-worker were performing a mini intervention! I started to get defensive about my actions and felt needlessly attacked in the situation. I said to him who are you to tell me how I should conduct myself as a black man. I am a person first. The color of my skin should not bind or limit me socially or culturally and as far as I knew, there had been many blacks in history that have paid with their lives in order for me to be the man I am now.
Things got quiet at that point. Realizing that further discussion on the subject might escalate the situation into a black on black crime scene, it was a wise decision. We finished our lunch and got up to leave. I turned to Gary and looked him square in his eyes.
“You want to join me in crop dusting the place on the way out?”
He looked at me and forced to hold back the humor he found with what I said. He shook his head in disapproval as he rolled his eyes to the ceiling. He looked at me with a crooked smile.
“Man you need help,” he said with an amused disbelief.
I did not crop dust the place.
That conversation I had with Gary from so many years ago has stayed with me till this day. Only because it did more to strengthen me as a black man and the person I am now. I refuse to let anyone or anything limit me to being one way or another simply because of my skin. I believe you should always be true to the person that lurks beneath the thin epidermis layer that covers the body and you will accomplish much in life… we are more than just skin deep.
So, want to go lunch?