It's almost been four years since Mr. J and I packed up our belongings and J-Jo (who was, at that time, the same age as the twins are now) and headed north to our current home in the Hudson Valley.
When we first got here, I was very conscious of the fact that I was the only black woman up here. For miles. You'd be more likely to see a wild turkey crossing the street than a sister at the supermarket (yes, we really do have wild turkeys up here).
It was a bit of a culture shock, to say the least. Even in the 'burbs I grew up in, there were other black people. But with time I learned to stop worrying about people's stares and just go about my business. Instead of worrying about how the lady at H & R Block began filing out as single (never mind the ring or the fact that I was seven months pregnant at the time), I got the terrific accountant we have now and never looked back. I ignored the stares at the supermarket. I even stopped caring if the old lady at the pump across from me just jumped in her car and locked the doors after seeing me get out of my Honda Odyssey (yeah, they say most muggers drive those).
I got over standing out. Or at least I thought I did.
Until yesterday, when I took a huge bag of clothes to donate to a local charity-based thrift store. For some reason, I felt the (odd) need to apologize while handing the bag to the lady over the counter, because nothing was ironed or on hangers or anything. She took one look at me and replied:
"As long as everything's clean."
I tried to recall what I looked like when I left the house that morning. My hair was pulled back into a neat pony tail, I had on a black peasant top and jeans. And my favorite chandalier earrings (they weren't these or anything, but so what?). Sure, I'd been running around with the kids all morning, but we weren't rolling in the dirt. Of course my clothes were clean. Of course the huge bag of used clothes were clean, too. So why'd she have to go there?
I felt the sudden urge to write Barack Obama, something tells me he'd understand.
One of the biggest things that annoys me about race in this country is that just when you're going about your business just thinking you're a person, somebody has to point the finger at you and shout: "No! You're not a person, you're a BLACK (or whatever else that's not white) person!" As if that's all that matters. As if there's nothing else. As if I owe anybody an explanation, just for being me.
At least she didn't call me "inarticulate".