When I was 17, almost 18, working in the valet parking department at the Marriott San Diego, one of the valets swaggered over to me and held his hand about an inch from my face covering my mouth and nose and said, “You have great eyes, but I’d change the rest of your face.” (Let’s all stand up and do a collective smack down and dog pile him right now wherever he is.) Gah.
In about 1990, a new family came to our church. They’d spent many years living the gang lifestyle in San Diego. The eldest daughter had a thing with me, she’d walk by and mad-dog me at church and give me dirty looks from across the sanctuary. Finally, I’d had enough, standing outside the church on the sidewalk, I said, “What’s your problem? What did I ever do to you to make you hate me so much?” I don’t think anyone had ever been that direct with her before, verbally. I didn’t throw punches. I can’t remember what she said back to me that day, but every since then, for years, after I moved away and went to college, she’d ask my mom how I was doing. I think that day changed things. We didn’t hang out as friends, but we mutually respected each other.
Way back in the mid-1980s, riding the bus from our small rural trailer park in Bullard to our school in Whitehouse, Texas, was a hardship I didn’t comprehend fully until later in life. I had no other way to get to school so, everyday, I’d brave the bus with my brother a few other kids from the trailer park. You see, we lived in a rural east Texas where people lived in shacks and drove Cadillacs. Don’t ask me why, but this was commonplace. Ramshackle homes with pit bulls unleashed guarding the property. As we picked up all the other bus riders, I remember being displaced from my seat. This was the age of the Jheri Curl. If you don’t know what this is, think Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson in the 1980s. Let me pause here and poke some fun at my own hair at that time. I think maybe I was mimicking the style of the times. This was my wannabe Jheri Curl, minus the hair product (mostly glycerin), so my Jheri Curl looked like a mullet. Speaking of glycerin, have you ever seen glycerin? It’s basically like having corn oil in your hair. Picture the back of every seat on the bus with an oozing greasy spot on the seat. Then I’d sit down, with my wild mullet, and use your imagination. It was Mulletsville meets Jherisville. Good times.
That same bus in the 1980s, was the place where I had a throw down of epic proportions. My mullet and me decided it was a good idea to lay claim to the seat on the back of the bus. I’d had enough taunting and name calling. I was tired of bein’ a honkey. I was tired of bein’ sandwiched between the girl with holed pantyhose and the girl with body odor. I was tired of letting my eyes stray and making eye contact with my bus mates and hearing, “Whadda YOU lookin’ at?” I’d averted my eyes long enough. I’d kept it in long enough. I’d kept my head down for too long. <<insert Rodney Dangerfield voice here.>> I wanted some respect.
So, before the-back-of-the-bus-seat-holder was picked up, (think young Aretha Franklin without the diva singing voice), I got on the bus and walked straight to the back and laid claim. Aretha (did I mention that she was at least 5 years older than me?) got on the bus and walked to her seat, “Get up out of my seat, gurl!” I looked up with squinty eyes and a game face, “I don’t see your name on this seat.” Uh, thems fightin’ words. I have no idea why, but after a few more insults she backed off. Maybe the bus driver told her to sit. Or maybe God saved me from the worst beat down of my life. But when she got off the bus at her stop, she hurled obscenities tellin’ me her brothers and her mama and her cousins were all gonna come and kick my ass for takin’ her seat. Nothing ever happened after that. I was scared, and I have no idea what possessed me to do this other than the injustice of not being able to sit anywhere I wanted. Imagine me with that little smirk of satisfaction on my mullet head smiling all the way home. Pure Joy.
Go back a little farther to Arkansas in 2nd or 3rd grade, maybe 1980-81. There was a boy who kept talkin’ smack to me. He was mean. I don’t remember the words, I just remember impressions. Regularly, I’d go home and tell my parents how mean he was. Finally, my dad said, “Well, you might have to show him who’s boss.” The next day, the boy did it again, he said something mean. (Oh, wrong thing to do…I’m a boss.) I pulled my arm back like a sling shot, as we were lining up and punched that boy right in the eye. Yup. Little Joy, straight-A student, punched that boy. The next day he came to school with a black eye. He never bothered me again. I don’t remember getting in trouble for this incident. Maybe the Asbell Roadrunners tolerated more violence. Maybe the teacher wanted that boy to be put in his place. Who knows.
So, after experiences like this, the injustices that I see in the world make me just want to stand up and fight. I experienced much less trauma than many people experience on a daily basis, but I’ve had my own window into injustices. I’m normally not a fighter, (after telling these stories, maybe I am) until I’m pushed and pushed and then, you better step back. When power is abused and the weak are preyed upon, it sets off a fire in my belly. Watch out, Joy cometh in the mornin’ like a steam train raging through an abandoned town.
Update on the gastric bypass progress:
Eating-wise, I’m still in Phase 4, eating mostly mashed potatoes and refried beans along with my regular regimen of protein shakes. I tried avocado this week, a small amount, and the results didn’t go so well. I think it may have been too fatty. This week, it’s all I can do to not eat chips, crackers and popcorn. I’ve shown a tremendous amount of restraint and the results are that I’m down 1 size and 35 pounds.
More next week, the Boyfriend episode.
Until next Friday…Love you loves.