DICHOTOMIES & DAZES
"dream had been over long before I even met Santana, little did she or my dad know. That was a big secret I kept from him over the years of my even attending the artsy-school. Because he had a different perception of my inclusion at that school than what actually was. Although I didn’t abort, I still had a second chance at life and a career going forward-hence why I chose adoption as an option. My father however, though estranged and out of the know of it all; the dream would never be over in his eyes-oh hell no-over his dead body. He was far too obsessively ambitious and loved playing fantasies in his head; his idea of success in the making (being cultivated vicariously through me).
Reminiscing on the time from back in third grade when his insatiably ambitious self interrupted me from my language arts classroom with a bunch of papers in his hand. He had the kind of excitement on his face as if he had hit the lottery. I was his lottery ticket: his golden-child.
He grabbed me by my tiny hands and dragged ninety-five pounds of skin and bones down that hallway so fast that dust probably followed us. He sat me in that empty lunchroom with the packet of papers telling me about this new school that was exclusive to kids with talent of a wide variety.
All my dad knew was that I could sing, I could dance, I could act, I could spell, I’d won spelling bees, I was articulate, I was theatrical, I had a lot of personality, good penmanship, nice handwriting, I was loved by my teachers (parent-teacher open houses were big to-do’s and major strokes to his paternal ego)-my hood loved me. So in my dad’s eyes, that was all the ingredients it took to make “Star Pie.” So he signed me on for the school, when little did he know, my: acting, the written test, my dancing, my creative writing, my music and my drama portion of the audition that opened the doors for me to step right in to the world of non-mediocrity (from the outside looking in) wasn’t what it took to actually make it in that “exclusive” school that he felt was built just for me.
All of that was merely behind (the entry) to door number one. That door merely squealed open to let you in the school-to separate you from the “mediocrity” of the traditional neighborhood high-school.
Door number two slammed behind you: hard. It consisted of politics of the economic, political and social kind:
The: “Nobody’s”: usually quiet, exceptionally multitalented, kept to themselves. Fashion was definitely not a priority or forte’. Most of them wore tattered and recycled clothes. Some were groomed acceptably rather than exceptionally well, other’s-not. For many of them, their circumstance was visible and on their sleeve. They were friendly, stayed out of the way, probably had one hell of an opinion about the remaining cliques:
The: “Why-The-Hell-Are-They-Here-Don’t-They- Belong-In-Some-Neighborhood-School-Rather-Than-This-Exclusive-Schooler(s)”: This was Santana’s group. Hardly anyone in the school knew what their special talents were. Amongst one another they knew (I think). But to all other groups, you kind of just wondered why in the hell were they even in school but more importantly: our school. This group consisted of those who were most probably poor to middle class but wore the latest fashions that seemed to camouflage what, if any, talent they really had. It was such a mystery. They were the typical/local/neighborhood high-school type of group that seemed like they floated into the artsy-school on some island and got stranded there. Some of them laughed at the “Nobodys” and other cliques for not having the latest clothes like them and thought people outside of their cliques were lames or just flat out weirdos. They speed dated amongst each other and would rather be caught dead than to date anyone in the “Nobodys,” but would occasionally date or speed date some in this next group:
The: “Artsy- Talented- Popular-Attractive-Part/Nerd-Part/Hood-Part/Normal’s”: This was my group. We cared nothing about the latest fashions, but rather, expressed our fashion sense through what we could do with our clothes to create our own style. Some of our friends were in the “Nobodys,” outside of that, we were friends amongst each other-that was of the utmost importance to us. Our group dated amongst each other, some would date within the “Nobodys” and the “Why the Hell’s” if they summoned (and only if they summoned).
The: “Wanna-Be’s”: Sigh. Rhetorically, I would have to ask: where do I start…
For starters, if this group of people’s fashion choice consisted of white top shirts, white bottoms, white tennis shoes and (whether guy and girl), if they wore pink sweaters tied across their shoulders and they walked around with tennis rackets; it wouldn’t be too far off from all their personas in school.
This was a pretty cool group (a very small part of them). The large part of this group would literally sicken you to your stomach if you let them (or hadn’t eaten yet). They weren’t trouble makers by any stretch of the imagination, but the large part of them would rather fight Goliath or ban together to hold open the mouth of a whale and fight tooth and nail than to digress to the clique in which many of them really belonged: “Nobody’s,” “Why the Hell’s” or the “Artsy’s.”
It was funny because in truth, this large part really did consist of a mixture of “Nobodys,” “Artsy” and “Why the Hell’s” but you better not tell nobody God, because if you brought that truth out, you probably would have been in for a knock-down, drag out whatever-you-wanna-do-about-it-off.
The “Wanna-Be’s” had one goal and one goal only: to be friends with, known by, connected to or connected with and/or besties with the “Be’s.” They lived for that. The “Wanna-Be’s” dated amongst each other-period. The black guys (and black girls) in this group would rather be caught dead than to be caught dating a “Nobody,” but would [in secret and only in secret] let it be rumored that he or she dated or kissed a black girl, or black boy, or an “Artsy”-and only if that “Artsy” was an “Artsy” that wanted to be a “Wanna-Be” or a wanted to be a “Be.”
Eventually, most “Wanna-Be’s” would get their chance in being a “Be,” but the actual “Be’s” were set in stone. “Be’s” had the social power to make a “Wanna-Be” feel like a “Be” and especially depending on that “Be’s” popularity at the time.
The bottom line was-since the “Wanna-Be” wasn’t a set in stone “Be”-they would still have to take their place back in their “Wanna-Be” spot and remain happy that they were friends with, known by, connected to, connected with and/or besties with the “Be’s.” And in order to maintain their “Wanna-Be” slash want to be a “Be” image; it was best that they: deny that a “Nobody” existed, ignore the “Why the Hells” and act like they didn’t know any “Artsy’s” unless it was one of the “Artsy-10.”
The “Artsy-10:” They were like: “reverse-moles.” Moles of about ten guys and girls in our “Artsy” clique who if given the chance, would do anything to be a “Wanna-Be,” and would kill to be a part of the “Be’s.” You could always tell when one of the “Artsy-10” got a chance to step out and hang out with the “Wanna-Be’s” or “Be’s.” Because (for a short while) they would talk different, walk different and carry on a whole persona befitting of a “Wanna-Be” or “Be.” They would feel so accepted and grateful that they stood a chance (even if it was a mere conversation with a “Wanna-Be” or “Be”). That would be enough to send them on these highs that (like clockwork because it was all a matter of time) the “Wanna-Be” and/or “Be” would send them right back into the clique to which they belonged: “Artsy- Talented- Popular-Attractive-Part/Nerd-Part/Hood-Part/Normal.” Their little fantasies and hopes of actually being a “Wanna-Be” or “Be” (for good) never-ever came to fruition and they would steadily try: year after year. It was crazy to observe. Aya and my other friend Carren were two-tenths of one such type. It would be a mixture of pathetic and painful to watch their ups and downs as a result of it all.
The “Be’s”: They were a mixture of three types of people and it was just this simple:
1-Either their parent or relative worked at the school (and/or had some control over the school program or any particular performance art or academic).
2-They were the kids whose parents were on a committee of givers who donated significant monies to the school (on a continuous basis).
3-They were close friends/besties of both. I repeat: close friends/besties of both. Not: known by, connected to or connected with. Their real friends and besties only.
“Be’s” had their way with about 65% of the teaching staff. The teaching staff was kind of like a teaching staff at a college. In college, you have some professors who may have athletes as students, who pretty much have a “pass” in their class no matter what. Athletes’ schedules are methodically chosen by their coaches and the athletic staff on a “preferred professor” basis: the professors who would always cut the athlete some slack because they are in cahoots with the sports program (secretly).
It was like that here, at our artsy school.
Probably about 65% of the staff was in cahoots with parents or relatives who worked at the school and/or had some control over the school program or any particular performance art or academic and as well, parents who donated money to the school.
So having to take a class with a “Be” could be quite the experience. Not as a result of the “Be’s” behavior or presumptuousness (because they indeed were). The “experience” would come from the “Be’s” real friends and besties or the “Wanna-Be’s” behavior-that was the irony of it all.
The “Be’s” besties, real friends and “Wanna-Be’s” loved for it to be known that they too, were exceptions to most rules. Most all “Be’s” were very assuming and presumptuous (subtly so). But they weren’t pathetic or painful to observe. The “Wanna Be’s” and the “Be’s” real friends and besties were-at all times. “Be’s” never had to do anything but just: be. They knew their place and knew it was solidified, and knew they had the most social power in the entire school-effortlessly.
All of that was what my dad did not know about this artsy school that he was so eager for me to get in. The doors had shut behind me, and the politics of the economic, political and social kind was a well-known secret that none of us ever talked about (in either group). It just was what it was. I’m just breaking it down (to how it “was”). I never explained it or broke it down to my dad because he would have taken my inclusion into that school to a whole new level, and I wasn’t interested in that kind of fighting to get in and fighting to stay in kind of illusion that I was watching. It was really a circus act that neither one of them even understood.
When my dad had come to grab me out of my third grade class to do that school’s paperwork, got me auditioned and in; he thought he knew-but he had no idea…
He merely expected that because I was multi-talented, I would get early training at a school that would hone in on that in a big way and from there-the world would be my oyster.
Well, unbeknownst to him, getting trained for the world to be my oyster-did not happen outside of evening recitals from well-rehearsed dance performances, drama recitals or art-exhibits for required classes. I tricked him into thinking that these performances, demonstrations and exhibits were major.
The bigger training and experience took place on the stage. That gave you the feel for what it would be like gigging in New York. The closest I got to that experience and on that stage (outside of my evening dance recitals) was auditioning for the major/school box office plays.
A callback list would go up. It had gotten to the point where I never had to check the first or second callback list-I made all of them. But when that final list would be posted, it was always 77% populated with the: “Be’s” and “Wanna Be’s.” 10% Artsy’s, 10% Nobody’s and 3% “Why the Hell’s”.
Unbeknownst to my dad, by eighth grade (many years before Santana was ever a twinkle in my eye and had even started the school), when I started to take notice of the social politics and began to pay attention to the list of student’s parents who donated big monies to the school-I totally quit auditioning. I would be obsessed with strolling that first floor area near the administrative offices watching rich parents with full-length mink coats stroll in and out of the principal and artistic director’s office; either cutting checks or finding out why their child was the understudy rather than the actual lead in a major. I would run to the front of the building just to take a peek at their big expensive Jaguars, Mercedes and BMW’s parked sideways-presumptuously knowing that the meeting they came for wouldn’t last-because they knew all too well how their money talked and bullshit runs the marathon.
By eighth grade, I refused to be the bullshit running the marathon through callback list number two and higher. I started turning a deaf ear and a blind eye to it all. If you understood the social, economic and political dynamics (that at the age, I didn’t have name for); you would have understood-like I did-how that social politic game went. I had zero interest in being a “Wanna-Be.” I found too much comedy watching, listening to and hearing about the pressure and rollercoaster ride that some of them would go through to be where they were socially. It was so pathetic to me.
In hindsight it was all so pitiful; watching the five cliques outside of the “Be’s (including me). The pathetic way that those who were in control of the performance art program, would come to classrooms and stand there like big suits-folding their arms and looking down from their eye-glasses and placing their hands on their chins, looking around at everyone and squinting their eyes like they were about to pick their next superstar. We would sit up with our backs arched straight and one-hundred watt smiles (looking all stupid and shit) from being told in advance that they would be coming through scouting for local commercials. No words were ever spoken, it was a classic case of the psychological Pavlov Dog Experiment.
By eighth grade, I quit barking and jumping. It never phased me anymore. I started turning my head to the direction of the window when the suits would show up. To myself, I would crack up laughing when they would leave-from how stupid some people looked-having no idea how that social politic game went. It was sad-watching my peers do just what I would do my first five years there for those suits (that were merely looking for the kid whose parents just strolled through with the mink coat-double-checking to see if the kid had the look for the next commercial they had just promised rich mom, rich dad).
It was hard not to, but I never told my dad about the politics that existed there because secretly, he too, was classist, elitist and insatiably ambitious and so was I, to an extent. Though I hated that school because of it-I understood what was going on. And my dad (secretly) never forgave himself for having kids by a less than ambitious mother, so he was going to make at least one of us pay for it. Between Twin and me and my other brothers; I was the best fit. So he executed his plan, set me on the mark, put me in position and threw me into doors-that once closed behind me-he knew nothing about. He just knew I belonged and would have paid top dollar to put me where he wanted to see me: on a main stage even if it was up on a harness flying across that auditorium with a diaper on and sprinkling glitter throughout-that would suit him just fine. My dad played the game-always had. He had a formula for success and life: no sleep. To be the boss, you have to pay the cost-and usually, by any and all means necessary…
The only thing that made me happy there, were my friends-I loved my friends and two other teachers [outside of Ms. You Know Who, who respected me, knew my worth and talents]. I had nothing to prove to her outside of following her rules.
When I got home to the where I lived, my experience was altogether different.
If I say to someone (who is not from my hood: “my hood held me down,”) that person would probably think I meant that my hood stifled me. But no, that school stifled me, but my hood “held me down” (up-in the highest esteem). I was fortunate because of that. And I always knew and was grateful for that.
Without my hood, I would have had no self-esteem or confidence, because that school would have broken me. When I left that school at 3:40p (many years before meeting Santana) my show began there-that was my main stage and bright lights with people cheering me on and appreciating being entertained by me at whim and request. My hood was my main stage, but while in school from 8a-3:40p; I was amongst a game of social politics that I refused to be the butt and bullshit of. That balance kept me grounded. Everything I learned and any skill I honed was the result of the ones who truly loved me, respected me and knew me-not the school I attended. My hood was merely disillusioned, bedazzled, and dazed by it all, because I was the only one from it-able to make it through those doors, that they (like my dad) knew nothing about-once they closed behind me.
In secret, I continued to let my dad (and even the people from my neighborhood) think that it was the school that was grooming me to blossom. Even Ms. You Know Who (who taught there) thought the same thing. I was learning, dreaming and inspired by way of her and my hood-not the school.
I wasn’t learning shit at the school. I wasn’t inspired there. I didn’t dream there. That school wasn’t preparing me for a life of what she and my dad thought I was attending there for. The school only taught me one thing and one thing only: the game of social politics, where by age thirteen, I was a pro at it and recognizing it. I knew my worth to people, my talents and what I was capable of. I didn’t need that school to validate that for me-all for a financial, social and emotional large fee.
As far as I was concerned with my [dead dad], my faith and disinterest in the school plus my estrangement from him all worked out. I was no longer under his pressure in more ways than he knew (and little did he ever know)…
As far as I was concerned [with my mom on pulling me out of the school], it was a favor to me. Because little did she know, after about my eighth-grade year there, it only became important for me to attend because of the school’s reputation and big name-in the eyes of other people. The school was something I could most certainly live without.
But now, I was faced with a decision to make and to decide if I could live with or without: this growing child inside of me. My mother merely felt that it would be distasteful for me to be in that type of school with a growing belly. She not only did what was best (and a favor to me), she also did what was natural for her and what she did best whenever she was faced with an important issue: run away from it, or ignore it away or send it away. So plans were made for me to be sent away to a home for pregnant girls that had a school campus but to me-was more like a pregnant jail filled with other pregnant and mean big-nosed bitches who like me, had a decision to make as to whether or not we were coming home with our brat, or give them to some happy couple waiting in the wings (which is what most did-as was my prospective decision) because I still had plans for a real life, with or without “real” love.
Couldn’t necessarily say that Santana had any serious and major plans for his life after he graduated, because although I personally knew his creative and artistic talents; they were about as obscure to other people as about as obscure as what he was going to do in life with his talents.
Although I played a part in creating the feet for socks, mending socks were not in my plans. All I could see was a hard life, and a hard-working man; working hard for a minimum-wage job, coming home stressed, over worked and pissed at and resenting me.
No thank you (to that “life”)…"