She was sitting in the lobby of a barely two-year-old suburban high school. It was about an hour after school let out for the day, but the building was still a-buzz with activity: drama club meeting and band practice, National Honor Society fund raiser and cheer leading tryouts. And most of all—sports of all kind.
This particular lobby where she sat was across from the Natatorium. The school housed the largest and most state-of-the-art facility in the greater metropolitan area, with two Olympic sized pools and regulation diving boards. Here is where her daughters took their “Golden Guppy” swimming lessons and right now they were in the bathroom across the lobby changing into their suits.
While she sat on the bench, watching streams of young people flow by, three teen-aged girls walked over and sat on the next bench beside hers. They were giggling and talking the giggles and talk of teen-aged girls everywhere and everytime. And periodically pulling out small cell phones to read and compose text messages like many teenage girls of this time. After a few moments of watching and listening to them, the waiting woman determined that their names were Ashley, Mariah (like the singer), and another Ashley. The first Ashley wore pink sweat pants with the word JUICY in Gothic script across the butt, and a sleeveless pink t-shirt. Both Mariah and the other Ashley were wearing flannel pants that appeared to be men’s pajama bottoms. Topping her flannel pants Mariah wore a black t-shirt with a beautifully silk screened portrait of the late rapper, Tupac Shakur. Coming down almost to the knees of the other Ashley’s flannel pants was a letter jacket in the bright primary colors of the high school. All three wore their long blond hair in a single pony tail fastened with what looked to be vintage jeweled hair clips.
The waiting woman sat, half listening to their conversation, and reflecting on her own style fads as a teen: overalls with one strap undone, perfectly pressed dark blue Jordache jeans, crisp white oxford shirts with a horse and rider embroidered over the left breast, Jheri Curls. This reverie was interrupted when JUICY Ashley suddenly stood from the bench and began rapping a lyric that the woman knew to belong to Lil Wayne, a lyric heavily littered with nigger and bitch.
Midway through the second verse, JUICY Ashley (noticing her two friends noticing the middle-aged Black woman seated on the bench next to them who was noticing them) abruptly stopped. Addressing the woman she smiled sweetly and said, “Don’t mind me. I’m a White girl on the outside but a Black girl on the inside. I’m like…a reverse Oreo.”
The woman managed a smile of her own—trying to make it as sweet as she could—and forced an “Oh.” The girls went back to spitting their rhymes and periodically checking their phones for text messages. Within moments they had moved on—gone to their practice, or to catch their rides home. Or perhaps off to the club where they would pop bottles of bub and make it rain on some hos.
No sooner had the three girls left than the woman’s small daughters came bounding out of the bathroom, laughing in their one-piece swimming suits and carrying the oversized duffel bag between them. They dropped the bag at the woman’s feet and one of the girls exclaimed loudly, “Mommy, Mommy, watch this!”
The two girls then recited something in perfect two-part rhythm. The words went along with synchronized body movements: first a stop-in-the-name-of-love outstretched right palm with the left hand on the left hip, followed by a flick of the right wrist, a double roll of the head on the neck, and ending with a slap of the right palm on the right buttock.
The words they spoke along with these movements were, “The HAND is off DU-ty so TALK to the BOO-ty!!!”
Thinking immediately of JUICY Ashley and her sisterhood, the woman said, “Where did you get that from?” That is how she might have planned to say it, but the words that actually came out were much louder and harsher: “WHERE DID YOU GET THAT FROM!!!”
Clearly alarmed, both girls stopped smiling. “From Hannah Montana, Mommy.”
Not JUICY Ashley, or the other Ashley, or Mariah-like-the-singer. A character on a Disney Channel television program.
For the second time in as many minutes, all the woman could manage was an “Oh.”
The girls exchanged a look between them that was equal parts concern and pity. Quickly filling that space left in the aftermath of the woman’s outburst, the second daughter said, “Mommy, can we go on ahead inside the pool? Will you bring our bag?” The woman tried to make her smile as sweet as she could, “Yes, of course, baby. Go on. I’ll bring the bag.”
With a quick thank-you and a trail of laughter, the girls ran across the lobby and opened the large glass doors to the noisy and humid Natatorium. The woman sat for a few more moments, perhaps watching footage of the scenes she had just witnessed. Shortly, she stood from the bench, picked up her jacket and the large duffel bag, and followed the girls inside the pool area.
***First draft originally posted Feb 4, 2009***